The A New Life compilation gathers up sadly-ignored and underappreciated fragments from the British jazz scene 1966-1990, and packs them up together to make a high-grade 2LP collection. A really great and varied selection, including lots of artists you’ll never have heard before (Spot The Zebra anyone?), on Jazzman.
- Double LP £18.99
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- JMANCD075 / Gatefold 2LP on Jazzman. Edition of 1000 copies. Featuring Quincicasm, Spot the Zebra, Indiana Highway etc.
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- A New Life by Various
8/10 John Lunny Customer review, 23rd October 2015
Over-priced, over-rated and bitterly, utterly, truly disappointing. My Fantasy Football team is languishing close to rock-bottom in the Jazzman Records league. A testament to the best-laid plans. But perhaps also a reminder I should stick to what I know. So I'm more than happy to write about something relating to Jazzman which is a bit cheerier than my team’s weekly woes (may they sit on the bench for all eternity).
‘A New Life’ is a compilation billed as shining a light on the ‘forgotten legacy of independent, regional and experimental Brit jazz’ coming out between 1966 and 1990. From small groups to larger bands, while there are echoes of the familiar in some tracks, such as Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay on the opening track, ‘Martini Sweet’ (Joy, 1976), or the Take Five-style piano of ‘Death Is Near’ (London Jazz Four with Sydenham School, mid-60s?), you quickly get a sense of the album certainly offering something a bit more leftfield (yep, that’s a school choir there).
And obscure it may be, but it’s also rather sweet in places. As an occasional sax player, I’ve always hated the half-joking adage that you can tell it’s jazz when the musicians are having more fun than the audience. And compared with the more ‘out there’ renditions of wailing tenors and angry, stop-start bass lines, A New Life is pretty listenable, even for non-jazz fans.
On the whole it stays upbeat, but there are a handful of slower tempos too, like the laid back and occasionally haunting ‘Trent Park Song’ (Quincicasm, 1973). And since some retailers would insist that even with two months to go we’re coming up to Christmas, a special mention for Indiana Highway’s take on ‘We Three Kings’. Although I’m not sure you’re going to be hearing that piped into your local high street anytime soon.
But given this is a retrospective, I began to wonder what happened to the various musicians you can hear on the album and the stories behind it all. A little digging around Quincicasm revealed the interesting side note that flugel player Dick Pearce had then only recently been demobbed from the Household Cavalry, but would later go on to join The Ronnie Scott Quintet. And twenty-five years after recording ‘The Dragon’, where are the members of Walsall Youth Jazz now? The singers from Sydenham School ?
In fact, the album’s liner notes provide a bit more background on each of the tracks, from the inspiration for song titles, to Sir David Attenborough’s connection to Spot The Zebra’s ‘The Living Planet’, which just goes to show that A New Life is as much a history lesson as it is music. I might need to do some more homework, but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy the jazz.
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