(Digital album released 1st April 2015)
The term ‘Renaissance Man’ is rather over-used, but given that many of that era’s leading lights were as fond of flamboyant costume as they were of artistic multi-tasking, it could certainly be applied to Ashley Slater. Not many careers manage to encompass everything from a number 1 pop single and an X Factor appearance on the one hand, and work with George Russell and anarcho-jazz collective Loose Tubes on the other, and still maintain such a forward impetus. The latest offering from this unstoppable force is a collection of twelve trombone-led instrumentals. The title must be meant ironically, as Slater wrote all the material and performed almost all the instruments, sang all the mostly wordless vocals, produced, engineered, and mixed the final results. His production shows an impressive depth and polish that speaks of many hours of dedicated application at the computer monitor. Stylistically it’s a bit of a mixed bag, as befits such a cultural polymath. Jaco Pistorius mixes South African township jive with Roobarb-and-Custard style electronics, Amen Joe does a light-hearted electro swing thing, Adios Amiga reworks classic Xavier Cugat mambo with some help from Alex Wilson and Noel Langley, and Loose Tuber Eddie Parker contributes flute to the 90s style baggy groove of Eddie’s Trousers. The mood is generally upbeat and lighthearted, epitomised by the various stylistic pastiches and punning titles – Cumbia for Cumbria from Colombia is a typical example – though Joy and Waltzer both have a more spacious, jazzy feel. A real standout is A Question Of Scale, a slow, meditative departure that showcases Slater’s beautifully burnished tone on ‘bone, and a great bass solo from Stuart Hall. The quality of the performances and the attention to detail are very impressive throughout – an alternative career as a soundtrack and incidental music composer/producer could beckon, if Slater fancied it, but one suspects he’s already moved on to the next project to surprise us with.