Henry Spencer: The Defector

On his second album as leader the British trumpeter offers epic, elegiac modal jazz with a quintet featuring guitarist Ant Law


The Defector is the second album from British trumpeter and flugelhornist Henry Spencer. Still a relatively fresh Guildhall graduate at the time of the release of his debut album in 2017, Spencer demonstrates here significant artistic development as a composer, bandleader and improviser.

For this project he is joined by his quintet, comprising guitarist Ant Law, pianist Matt Robinson, bassist Andrew Robb and drummer David Ingamells. Throughout Spencer shines, his tone direct, crisp and brassy.

The Defector is a richly conceptual album. As described in the liner notes, the album explores the “moral courage, strength and determination” of a range of different types of defectors, from deserting soldiers, political dissidents, and partners in abusive relationships. These ideas give the set of nine original compositions an over-arching conceptual coherence and an emotional depth. The inclusion of strings adds further layers of textural complexity to these compositions and reinforces the album’s expansive, cinematic quality.

The title track begins with a sparse piano ostinato over which Spencer plays a lyrical trumpet melody. The track gradually builds to a crescendo, and Spencer’s trumpet soars high over lush string accompaniment and swinging rhythm section. This provides contrast to other tracks such as Moment Gained and Without A Voice, which are slower and more contemplative. There are also some amazing moments of improvisation on display here from the rest of the band, with highlights including Robinson’s furiously fast piano solo on Perfect Hindrance and Law’s electrifying guitar solo on Undone.

The Defector; Perfect Hindrance; Undone; Moment Gained; Introduction To Without A Voice; Without A Voice; Here (For Chicca); Overlap; Not My Country (42.27)
Spencer (t, flh); Ant Law (elg); Matt Robinson (p, elp); Andrew Robb (b); David Ingamells (d); John Garner, Marie Schreer (vn); Lydia Abell (vla); Colin Alexander (clo). Hoxa HQ, London, UK, April-June 2019.
AMP Music & Records 0701220926681