Recent Discoveries

The average British Jazz musician earns a living by being so many different bands that recognition of the other musicians must sometimes be a problem. As the saxophonist launches into a solo, the bass player’s quizzical expression is not a comment on his performance – he’s just trying to remember whether they’ve met before. Things can very easily get confused. Over a couple of pints after the gig, the Alan Wharton Quartet suddenly realise, amidst much backslapping, that they are the Bill Brunskill Quintet minus old whatsisname. This may seem a weird system to outsiders but it keeps the musicians on their toes. On one occasion a chance conversation between members of the Leon Cheade Sextet revealed that three of them were married to the same woman. How they laughed! Mutual recognition is not a problem for In Cahoots, as they have been playing together for nearly ten years now. Band leader Phil Miller (guitar) and drummer Pip Pyle are unlikely to forget each other’s names having grown up together, then spent the best part of two decades in the back of transit vans with their bands Delivery, Hatfield & the North and National Health. Sax player Elton Dean (whose name Elton John once borrowed but never gave back) has been with the band since its inception, Fred Baker (bass) since 1988 and newcomer Jim Dvorak (trumpet) avoids any recognition problems by sensibly adopting the surname of the bloke who wrote the New World Symphony. 1993 sees the quintet reunited (Hey! didn’t we used to be In Cahoots?) In a Paris studio for their fifth album, the ironically titled “Recent Discoveries”. Under the sympathic guidance of producer Gerard L’homme the band sound confident and relaxed, the stiff introductions of the past long gone. For the first time there is no keyboard player but Phil’s MIDI guitar plugs any gaps in the sound. As usual, Miller’s compositions form the mainstay of the album but there are two pieces by other members, Elton Dean’s neatly written “Riffy” and Fred Baker’s cheerful L.A. tinged “The Opener” (which of course is placed third). Dvorak and Dean (Hey! didn’t we used to be a successful ice skating partnership?) have developed an uncanny understanding, handling Miller’s difficult lead lines with precision and panache. Having whipped through a few such with aplomb on “Trick of the Light” both take exhilarating solos urged on by the bustling rhythm section. Phil pays homage to his producer on the energetic “Chez Gege but on the evidence of this track Gerard’s house must be a very odd place indeed with Phil’s mad rhythm guitar and the melody turning curious corners. If you have ever dreamed of standing on a beach in flowing white robes at midnight. illuminated by the full moon while clouds scud overhead, the quiet music you thought you were hearing was probably Phil Miller’s “Tide”. a beautiful ballad which ebbs and flows like its title. “Breadhead”, the track which follows, features Phil on MIDI guitar, triggering bell-like electric piano sounds with a tune reminiscent of Mike Ratledge’s compositions on early soft machine albums. Highlight of the album is the title track “Recent Discoveries” which develops from a dreamy, brooding strings and bass opening to a full blown, quasi-funk number with a memorably noble theme. Another great bit of writing and another nice album from this seasoned (occasionally pickled) bunch who are still evolving after all these years.

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