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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

Black Box
Nigel Hitchcock Quartet

The Snakeranch Sessions

black box BBJT002

  1. Speak Low
  2. Invitation
  3. Wail
  4. Weaver of Dreams
  5. In a Sentimental mood
  6. Donna Lee
  7. All the things You Are
  8. The Maestro
  9. Cherokee

Nigel Hitchcock – Alto
Robin Aspland – Piano
Laurence Cottle – Bass
Ian Thomas – Drums

Although this album was recorded in 1996, it had not come to my attention before and on hearing it I am very impressed. I knew Nigel was a musical genius, because I have heard him play on many concerts from his days as lead alto with NYJO, to a performance with the New Jazz Couriers at Coventry Jazz Festival last month.

Like myself, there is a considerable volume of jazz fans that like to hear standards played and Nigel obliges on this session. The music however is never dull; it is always inventive without getting so far away from the original chord sequence that you don’t know what is going on. Speak Low has always been a favourite tune of mine and this version gets the album off to a great start, the rhythm section is excellent with Ian Thomas driving things along with great authority. Nigel’s technical control of the instrument is exemplary and his ability to vary the sound adds to his improvisational armoury. In my opinion he must be destined to be a worldwide jazz star, but perhaps the fact that he is equally capable as a session man for any kind of music may prevent this. His ability shows how valuable NYJO is as an opportunity for young musicians of outstanding ability to gain experience that would otherwise have been denied to them. Take a bow Bill Ashton (MD of NYJO)!

Wail has bass player Laurence Cottle and Nigel playing the theme in unison at finger busting tempo, without making it sound in the least bit difficult. Weaver is taken at a slower than normal tempo, this time Cottle is the first soloist, followed by some more fine improvisations from Nigel. Robin Aspland plays an interesting introduction to In a Sentimental Mood, which adequately shows off the leader’s ability to play a fine ballad superbly well. Ian Thomas plays the intro to the up-tempo Donna Lee, the melody is played by Hitchcock and Cottle in unison again and the latter plays the first solo which is so sagacious as to make you think he is playing guitar.

All the Things You Are with it’s Parkeresque intro, has never been an easy tune to play, the melody is so strong you keep getting dragged back to it, but it is no trouble for this band.

Cherokee is taken at a fierce tempo as you might expect, but this version swings like mad all the way through. The intro is an amazing piece of improvisation, with many quotes thrown in for good measure.

This album demonstrates the amazingly high standard of jazz which British musicians are capable of and should be in everyone’s collection.
Don Mather




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