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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Friday, 12 April 2024 16:57

Hannah Horton - Live In Soho

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Excellent live recording by Hannah Horton and her quartet.

Following the release of her highly acclaimed second album, Inside Out (2021), it’s been a busy couple of years for saxophonist Hannah Horton. She’s performed at prestigious venues, such as Ronnie Scott’s and the Barbican, appeared at the ESG London Jazz Festival, been nominated for ‘Best Newcomer’ for a Parliamentary Jazz Award, and continued her work in musical education.

Live In Soho was recorded at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho in January 2023. The album captures her touring band, most of who appeared on Inside Out; Tim Lapthorn on piano, Rob Statham on electric bass and Nic France on drums.

What immediately strikes you, listening to the album, is the immediacy and vibrancy of the recording, which came straight off the mixing desk. It captures every nuance of the performance and makes you feel like you were there. There’s also an energy about the band’s performance that comes from playing together on a regular basis that a one-off studio album cannot easily capture.

The album features some of the highlights from her last album, including Surfing Thermals, Feed The Birds and Horn Dance, as well as some interesting, lesser-known covers. It’s good to hear an artist who relies primarily on her own compositions, rather than lean too heavily on standards – particularly when the tunes are as good as these.

The album opens with Feed The Birds from Mary Poppins. A cadenza from Hannah, playing tenor, opens the tune, and suggests the birds flying around. When the band come in, Hannah continues her solo, with Rob Statham’s bass driving the band, before Tim Lapthorn delivers a solo of his own.

Las Vegas Tango was composed by Gil Evans and sees Hannah switch to baritone. She plays the opening over some delicate percussion by Nic France, before the smoky tango kicks in. Hannah makes the baritone sound light and effortless on her superb solo, before handing over to Tim Lapthorn, while Nic France plays support with some Latin-style percussion. This tune is met with rapturous applause by a clearly appreciative audience.

Escape, a tune that captures the pleasure of going on holiday and escaping the damp, wet UK is as joyous as you’d expect. The band sound like they’re having fun, too, and there’s a lovely solo by Rob Statham, supported by Hannah, who plays delicately beneath him as the tune reaches its climax.

Sea Journey by Chick Corea is one of the highlights of the set, and opens with Rob Statham playing alone, before the band come in. There’s some lovely interplay amongst the rhythm section as Rob solos. The tune has been part of Hannah’s set for some time and its great to hear it on record for the first time.

The funky Forget Me Not is dedicated to Hannah’s grandmother, who apparently loved her garden. I’m not sure I’d associate gardening with such a swinging groove, but that’s hardly a complaint. It’s a reminder, if one were needed, that Hannah is a fine composer in her own right. She also delivers one of the solos of the night, which builds beautifully.

Horn Dance was one of my favourite tunes from Inside Out. It was inspired by the Thaxted Morris Men, which sound like an unlikely inspiration, but it certainly inspired the band, who deliver an exciting, spirited performance. A special mention for Nic France’s drumming on this one, which is quite exceptional. 

Live In Soho is a hugely enjoyable live album and should consolidate Hannah’s position as one of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene.

 

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