Alex Hitchcock Quintet
All Good Things
(Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT572)
This is the recording debut from a band that came together for Hitchcock’s final performance at the Royal Academy of Music, but this is no undercooked collegiate project – the band and the material have been thoroughly road tested since they graduated in 2016, not least at Brighton’s Verdict club and both the Bandstand and Arena stages at Love Supreme Festival. Even in the crowded field of contemporary UK jazz talent, this band stand out, and it’s no fluke that they are one of the very few UK acts to be picked up by Jordi Pujol’s Fresh Sound New Talent label – the people, need we be reminded, who brought Brad Meldhau, Robert Glasper, the Bad Plus, Avishai Cohen and so many other defining talents to wider attention. Hitchcock combines an awesome technical facility with a keen ear to explore and assimilate a range of classic and contemporary influences – you can hear echoes of the hard-edged sound of Joe Lovano, the harmonic sophistication of Mark Turner, the ferocious intelligence of Joel Frahm and the effortlessly powerful high register of labelmate Seamus Blake combined to dazzling effect, notably on his solo break on Mint. The writing expands on the language of Wheeler style Euro jazz by adding all kinds of rhythmic twists and turns, handled with confidence and aplomb by the imperturbably solid Downard and Davis; the infectiously quirky Sorry Not Sorry goes though a variety of subtle metric shifts before breaking into an exhilarating swing under Barry’s rippling Rhodes solo; Mint has a cool, textural intro recalling Gogo Penguin that hints at another possible direction. Will Barry is an imaginative and sophisticated player, as his feature on Context demonstrates; and in James Copus, Hitchcock has found a perfect foil, a match for his own virtuosity and fire; the pair tear into the high energy Mobius, swapping lines with gusto. This is an outstanding project and, if nurtured by the label, will surely continue to deliver outstanding results; while the performances still feel a little on the careful side, rather than wildly abandoned, there’s a wealth of talent from the leader, and from each individual player, and the finely balanced mix of complementary musical personalities indicates that this unit has potential to go on to great things.