Jazz Pretenders: Big Jump

Catalan fusion quartet invokes Chic, The Average White Band, Marcus Miller and the Shadows as backdrop for sharp improvisations

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Recorded at La Casamurada Studio in Banveres Del Penedès, Big Jump is the third album by the Catalan electric jazz fusion quartet led by sax player Jordi Blanch, following their previous outings Ritmes A L’Estudi (2015) and Pretensions Elèctriques (2016). Blanch has worked with such diverse artists as The Excitements, London Jazz Sextet, Betty Harris and Justerini & Blues, as well as playing jazz and blues festivals from Montreal and Casablanca to St Petersburg and Edinburgh. The JPs also include guitarist Toni López, Dani Peña on bass and Marcos López on drums, joined on two tunes by singer Marian Barahona (Lucki Guri, La Vella Dixieland, Ivó Oller, MB Jazz Quartet). Her solo debut album, Big Little Dream, was released last April.

Elastic Minor finds López’s guitar and the leader’s sax evoking Chic and The Average White Band respectively before Blanch launches into a fluid, extended solo. The title track starts with the saxophone already running, before more incisive guitar chords progress into some funky wah-wah passages and more lively fencing with the sax. Four Years adopts a similar attitude, its urban, uptempo horn sounds benefiting from a punchy bass-and-drum rhythm.

La Caixa De Somriures adopts a slow, mellow balladic approach, Barahona’s sweet, multilayered delivery complemented by understated acoustic guitar. Of the nine selections, Marcus Miller’s Splatch is the first not written by Blanch, its menacing bass and choppy drums underpinning the twin vibes of sax and guitar. Barahona returns for I Wish How I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, penned by pianist Billy Taylor, later given lyrics by Dick Dallas and famous as the theme to Barry Norman’s BBC Film… TV series. The vocals are pedestrian, and the lazy arrangement could never eclipse that used by the Beeb, but it features sterling guitar and saxophone. The closing Boza Boza Song opens on sensitively picked acoustic guitar before entering into a sax-led, mid-paced workout reminiscent of The Shadows’ Man Of Mystery.

Running to 35 minutes, this is a feisty – if short – offering which sets fine jazz workouts against hot soul arrangements of cool, largely original compositions and one outstanding cover (the inclusion of voice as an extra instrument is a good idea, great on La Caixa, but weaker on I Wish). The selections are tight and focused with bright, controlled improv solos, and will be accessible to most jazz fans.

Discography
Elastic Minor; Big Jump: Four Years; La Caixa De Somriures; Splatch; Fast Train Home; Petit Himme A La Respiració; I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free; Boza Boza Song (35.21)
Jordi Blanch (ts); Toni López (g); Dani Peña (b); Marcos López (d); Marian Barahona (v, 4, 8). Barcelona, Spain, November 2019.
Blue Moon Inner Jazz BMCD 2511