Chris Allard: Melodic Collective

Reminding of Metheny and Rosenwinkel, London guitarist combines with John Turville and others to range from hard bop to introspective balladry

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London-based guitarist Chris Allard has worked with a who’s who of British jazz, from a lengthy tenure at NYJO to collaborations with the extended Dankworth clan and Jamie Cullum. Crossover session work brings a refreshingly open outlook to his music, while his ongoing association with many top-flight vocalists has surely sharpened his appreciation of melody.

Allard’s new ensemble is a collective in the truest sense, with all but drummer Will Glaser contributing original material. Very much of the contemporary mainstream, the pieces span hard bop to introspective balladry, the group’s overall cohesion coming more from their relaxed bonhomie than any rigid stylistic allegiances. 

Launching in utterly sublime style, Ocean Mirage channels the melodic bliss of Metheny’s Midwestern Nights Dream before transitioning into a mid-paced groove. Allard’s clean tone and crisp articulation indicates less delay and chorus than Metheny, and he tends to favour the middle position (neck and bridge pickups) for more of a Rosenwinkel snap.

Robson’s Tridence is classic Latin-tinged hard bop with echoes of Lee Morgan. Turville steals the solo honours, and spurred on by Hayhurst and Glaser he stretches out with a beautifully constructed solo. Hayhurst’s Snake Steak and Spuyten Duyvil dip into the same late 60s Blue Note bag, evidencing the ensemble’s catholic tastes. Pick of the ballads is the spacious Time Is No Fool, co-credited to Allard’s regular collaborator Jacqui Dankworth, while Turville’s shapeshifting Study In Thirds fizzles with rapid-fire group interplay.

The album closes with the title track, the horns weaving their contrapuntal melodic magic as Robson’s wistful solo conjures memories of late period Kenny Wheeler. Turville’s searching solo burrows deep into the composition’s melodic core, and in Allard’s group of many talents the pianist is perhaps the most consistently outstanding soloist.

Discography
Ocean Mirage; Tridence; Erin; Snake Steak; Driving Home; See You In Spyten Duyvil; Time Is No Fool; Study In Thirds; Melodic Collective (58.33)
Allard (elg) with Robbie Robson (t); John Turville (p); Oli Hayhurst (b); Will Glaser (d). Wivenhoe, Essex, October 2022.
Perdido Music DOR-2301