Ewan Bleach Quartet: Ewan The Night ’n’ The Music

London woodwind man echoes Hodges, Hawkins, Bechet and Prez in distinguished fashion as he produces novel covers of some classics


If there’s one thing that amuses me more than a good pun it’s a bad one, so the title of this album predisposed me to like it. As it happens, the performances are very good anyway, and with featured composers including Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Green the source material can’t be sniffed at.

Many of us will already have numerous versions of these tunes in our record collections, which is just testimony to how well crafted and durable they are. These days it takes a brave player to set themselves up for comparison with versions by the likes of Coleman Hawkins and Johnny Hodges. Bleach shapes up just fine.

His expositions of the themes are elegant and his improvisations, and those of his colleagues, treat the venerable songs with due respect. The playing is not academic and dispassionate though: for example Bleach’s introduction and solo on You And The Night and his work on The Nearness have an intense quality.

In my day this approach to jazz was known as mainstream, but here it is self-described as Old Style, the name adopted for the new label set up by Bleach to issue this and other releases that are in the pipeline. Much as I have always liked the chordal Cresta Run of bebop and the increasing freedom of post-bop schools of jazz it’s refreshing to relax into a session like this, where melodic development is paramount.

Bleach has a lovely tone on each of his horns, and I particularly liked the echoes of Sidney Bechet on tracks like Deep Purple (soprano), Memories and Bechet’s own Si Tu Vois (clarinet) and Lester Young on the last two tracks (tenor).

However, I should emphasise that this is not a kind of “reconstructions” project, copying the work of past groups and musicians. The quartet puts its own personality into what Bleach has called “a tribute to the poetic side of jazz improvisation”, revisiting and re-examining classics rather than slavishly recreating them. This album is an excellent debut for the label and I look forward to future releases.

Body And Soul; Deep Purple; Memories Of You;you And The Night And The Music; Prelude To A Kiss; Si Tu Vois Ma Mere; When I Grow Too Old To Dream; The Very Thought Of You; The Nearness Of You (39.43)
Bleach (cl, ss, as, ts); Colin Good (p); Jim Ydstie (b); John Kelly (g) except Deep Purple: Martin Wheatley (g). Alice’s Loft, London, 27 November 2018, 24 January 2019, 7 January 2020.
Old Style Records OSR 001