Gerard Presencer’s calling card outside of the jazz pocket is that aged just eighteen he played the trumpet on US3’s version of Canteloupe Island. Sager readers may remember this as a breakout hit bestseller for Blue Note in the 1990s. Since then Presencer has polished his chops playing with amongst others Charlie Watts and Stan Tracey. He is also a well respected academic and he has worn a mortar board as head of jazz studies at the Royal College of Music. He now resides in Copenhagen & this his fourth release is an inspired invitation to meet the neighbours. Those neighbours being the much feted Danish Radio Big Band.
The mission statement for Groove Travels as per Presencer’s sleeve notes is that the compositions & the arrangements be not from any one place or time. The confident Presencer does all of those arrangements himself and of which five are originals and three are covers. He chooses the flugelhorn as his main lead instrument.
Kicking off with the subtle & insinuating Another Weirdo, Presencer’s tone is full and ringing with the big band playing nimble hopscotch around his patterns. The signature sound of the album has been established. Lush with cosy harmonic spacing. Next in the queue is Blues for Des. It’s nine minutes of supple shadow boxing, with to these ears, a hint of Loose Tubes in the horn chart. However there is no threat of anarchy with Karl Martin Almqvist’s fruitful tenor sax solo making a big impact. Ballad Or Tango Of The Misunderstood is a deft cocktail of well, ballad & tango. Henrik Gunde on Fender rhodes stands out with his finger work giving a 1970s pulse to the corners of the arrangement.
One of the success of Groove Travels is the fluid assimilation of covers and originals. Eleanor Rigby is given a new lick of paint with in with a big band setting. Per Gade’s guitar adds a welcome sharpness giving the sheets of brass a contrasting grain. The album highlight is Istanbul Coffee Shop, a roaring middle eastern work out, with Vincent Nilsson’s trombone solo lifting the roof. Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, which I have not heard big band style before, breaks for the border and stands up on its hind legs being propelled by Elial Lazio’s urgent percussion. Proceedings are wrapped up by Presencer shifting to trumpet on a straight ballad version of I Can’t Stop Loving You, which brings a no frills full stop to this satisfying showcase.
Groove Travels is a very approachable take on the big band sound and its skillful arrangements in particular put a brand new label on old bottle.