Dave Stapleton (piano)
Between The Lines (Edition Records)
Ben Waghorn (sax)
Jonny Bruce (trumpet)
Elliot Bennett (drum)
Paula Gardiner (bass)
I haven't heard Dave Stapleton's previous albums (two to be exact) so I hope my thoughts here are somewhat on the mark. Stapleton's classical training and a strong dose of Herbie Hancock is apparent throughout his new release, Between The Lines (Edition Records). The album starts with the melodic drone of "October Sky" and then really kicks into gear with the funky psychedelic rhythms of "Horn" obviously the focal point for the Bruce and Waghorn, whom both shine brightly on here and throughout Between The Lines. "Horn" is really killer and set a perfect fresh and exciting tone for the rest of the session.
While the rest of the British jazz community is stretching the boundaries of the avant garde, Dave Stapleton is using the tradition and improving upon it. This is really, really compelling stuff from a band that has definitely been together awhile and knows each other inside and out. "Socks First" shows the delicate nature of the band some truly exquisite simpatico as each member features prominently. The titled track, "Between The Lines" starts with some lovely playing by the rhythm section and some understated piano work from Stapleton. A lovely number for those you wishing for a glass of wine with your jazz.
Lots of funky interplay take place on "Wig Wag" between Paula Gardiner (bass), Jonny Bruce (trumpet) and Ben Waghorn (sax) which could be placed along side some of the better moments of Jools Hollands or mid-period Branford Marsalis works. Fun, exuberant exchanges with lots passion built into ever note. "Under The Cherry Tree" is the band performing a lovely ballad in the vein of Keith Jarrett and Sonny Rollins and moves with great ease taking the album to a wonderful conclusion with "Images" a sparse romantic number highlighting Stapleton's classical tradition on piano and again some great work from Waghorn.
Between The Lines is definitely a contemporary masterpiece among a vast array of Miles Davis, John Zorn, Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor influenced avant garde that permeates British/European jazz at the moment. For American audiences Between The Lines is a fresh and exciting and you might not find something this well structured yet adventurous from a band in the U.S. all year long. Highly, Highly Recommended.