Wednesday 6 October 2021

'Dream Band' by Alex Hitchcock

'Dream Band' marks the new album release from saxophonist Alex Hitchcock who continues his association with the Spanish label Fresh Sound New Talent.

Marking his second release for the label, Hitchcock's incredible release from last year under the banner of his own Alex Hitchcock Quintet ('All Good Things') would surely set expectations for his follow-up exceedingly high.  A massively enjoyable, intricate and imaginative record, Hitchcock's boundless ideas clearly didn't stop at the conclusion of that album as the current 'Dream Band' release sees the UK stalwart once again strive for an even grander scope.

Much of Hitchcock's charm comes through his continual desire to push the envelope, try new things and take his music into previously unexplored directions...  As part of Resolution 88, the jazz-funk, Herbie Hancock-inspired collective can boast three albums to date with each release re-exploring their sound to include elements of broken beat and hip-hop over the course of their musical narrative.

Hitchcock's AuB project in conjunction with fellow saxophonist Tom Barford sees the duo veer towards a more abstract and ethereal aesthetic as evidenced through their stunning self-titled release of last year.

And while last year's Alex Hitchcock Quintet album, 'All Good Things', was a fantastic showcase for some incredible home grown UK talent, Hitchcock seeks to subvert those expectations once again for 'Dream Band' by extending the collaborative pool to include some revered names from the US alongside some of the UK's leading performers.  Even employing the title of 'Dream Band' demonstrates Hitchcock's humility when creating music with artists he himself holds in such high esteem.  Of the names recruited for this ambitious ensemble are the familiar names of bassist Joe Downard and pianist Will Barry from Hitchcock's own quintet.  The UK is further represented by vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett who - whether lending her indelible vocal to the likes of Trope, Nubiyan Twist, SEED Ensemble or past Alex Hitchcock Quartet projects - always finds a way to make the moment her own as she absolutely does through her wordless vocal performances on 'To Love Itself' and 'FSTL'.  

Vocal duties on the album are shared with Midori Jaeger who breathes scintillating life into the album opener 'Wolf and Nina' as well as 'Azalea'.  The US are adeptly represented by names including decorated drummer Jason Brown, iconic percussionist Luisito Quintero and Fresh Sound label mate saxophonist Chris Cheek.

Recorded in London over the course of three days with the band arrangements mixed up for each session, the end results of this album must serve as a wholly satisfying experience for Hitchcock - hand-picking a range of fifteen world class artists whose talents each hold personal significance and being able to establish the artistic course for a project that is built around discussion, trust and open collaboration must all result in a career high for Hitchcock.

While it would certainly be true to cite any musical collective comprising of even half the names on display for this album as a 'dream band', Alex Hitchcock must surely start to acknowledge his own place as a key part of that line-up - thanks to his inspirational and tirelessly prolific output, Hitchcock's continual ascension will already have him listed as a dream collaborator for artists on either side of the Atlantic. 

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