Album Review: Jean Toussaint All Star Sextet – Live at the Jazz Cafe

Jean Toussaint All Star Sextet

Live At The Jazz Cafe

(Lyte Records LR049)

 

The warmth of the respect accorded to Jean Toussaint, accurately described by Ivan Hewitt as ‘a genial presence on the UK jazz scene for over 30 years’, can be gauged by the warmth of the applause that greets his opening welcome at the start of this extensive 2-disc set, recorded live at the Jazz Cafe to mark what would have been Art Blakey’s 100th birthday. The Jazz Cafe is as used to hosting dance bands as straight-ahead jazz acts, and the crowd react with a liveliness that you might not get in the more staid surroundings of a typical seated jazz club – as well you might, because Toussaint and Co. are simply on fire from the very outset. There’s a neat generational split between the frontline soloists, with Wallen and Rollins as leading lights of an earlier generation of Jazz Warriors and the rhythm section representing the younger bloods – all combine to thrilling effect on the latin flavoured Amabo, with Forbes and Casimir’s driving groove inspiring all three horn players to play to the heights – the return of Byron Wallen’s distinctive trumpet voice, reminiscent of 70s adventurers like Charles Tolliver, is especially welcome, but everyone is playing their hearts out right from the outset til McCormack’s typically vituosically intense outro statement. Wallen’s own The Gatekeeper is a pulsing Afro-Cuban 6/8; Doc is a marathon 18-minute workout kicking off with a dazzling high-energy drum solo over which the crowd’s screams of approval are still audible, before moving into darker, mellower territory; Major Changes brings back the Afro-Cuban feel with able assistance from Perez on congas. New blood Daniel Casimir gets a featured composition on CD 2: a reflective mid-tempo that’s a perfect showcase for Toussaint’s enduring Shorter-esque affliliations, and the set closes with a wide-ranging exploration of Moanin’ – a kind of foundational document for the inclusive, blues-and-groove-based approach to jazz documented here that has room for all kinds of sophisticated explorations without straying far away from the kind of sounds that can whip up a storm.

Eddie Myer

Jean Toussaint, tenor saxophone; Byron Wallen, trumpet; Dennis Rollins, trombone; Andrew McCormack, piano; Daniel Casimir, bass; Williams Cumberbache Perez, congas; Shaney Forbes, drums.