Guitar, Jazz, Music

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LEWIS HARDING – Palm Thievery. Another fabulous review for Lewis Harding’s debut jazz album from Jazzviews.net.

Lewis Harding - Palm Thievery
Lewis Harding – Palm Thievery

Lewis Harding (guitar); Dave Cottrell (drums); Terry Pack (double bass); Tom Phelan (piano); Richard Horne (vibraphone & percussion); Martijn Van Galen (trumpet & flugelhorn); Charlotte Glasson (soprano & alto saxophone); Kate Hogg (alto & tenor saxophone); Julian Nicholas (tenor & baritone saxophone)

While no recording dates are specified on the album cover, this is a lockdown album, and a very fine one at that. One would think that the idea of the musicians recording their parts separately or in pairs, and the recording being put together in post-production is not conducive to making a jazz album. Sure this is a time honoured tradition since the late fifties to use studio overdubs to clean up mistakes or re-record another take for a solo, but by and large much of the material would often be recorded ‘live’ in the studio and overdubs added at a later date. Covid and the enforced lockdown and restrictions that came with it made creative musicians have rethink on how to get things done, and adapting their working methods accordingly. This has produced some excitingly different albums, and Palm Thievery is one of them.

As a studio regular at The Playroom, Arundel, guitarist and composer Lewis Harding was recording some tracks with saxophonist Kate Hogg. The songs by Harding were meant for an ambient-guitar based project but with the addition of saxophone the music was leaning to more of a jazz feel with Kate Hogg’s improvisations. With two tracks, ‘Above‘ and ‘Hue 6‘ suggesting the path to follow Harding set about developing the material he already had with horn parts and arrangements, with the assistance of pianist Tom Phelan and resident engineer and orchestrator Mike Saunders, for the nine piece band heard here.

Finding a way to navigate the frustrations of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic the guitarist set about building the album that was beginning to emerge, with the opportunity to get some of the South East’s premiere musicians into the studio. With the luxury of time on his hands Harding has melded what appeared to be disparate parts in to a cohesive whole with a series of strong compositions that feature some no-nonsense improvising. From the original two tracks laid down, ‘Above‘ is a lovely ballad that simply and effectively features Kate Hogg on tenor saxophone, with fine solos from both Harding and Tom Phelon on piano, while ‘Hue 6‘ with Kate on alto this time is another lyrical piece that allows the melody and subsequent solos over a gentle pulse from the rhythm section. 

Upping the ante is the marvellous ‘Octopads‘ a tricky theme that appears to handled with little difficulty  by the horns, and vibraphone of Richard Horne with a lovely trumpet solo from Martijn Van Galen and understated interlude from Harding before being ripped up by Julian Nicholas’ baritone solo. Equally fine is the swinging opening number with a barnstorming opening tenor solo from Nicholas, and a belting solo from the guitarist too. The tension is released with a tender yet tough alto outing from Charlotte Glasson, before the piece is knocked up a gear with Van Galen on flugel and drummer, Dave Cottrell.

Lewis Harding – Palm Thievery

A strong opening number, but it appears that Harding wished to keep the best until last with ‘Nine Steps‘. At nine minutes the longest piece on the album, but one which does not lose momentum or interest. From the pensive opening the composition builds slowly with Van Galen’s muted trumpet solo of particular interest supported by the saxophone section. Harding’s guitar solo is also a model of restraint, each note carefully placed. The tension is allowed to build as the music is held in check, and it is only with Nicholas’ tenor solo that there is resistance with his plaintive cries looking to disturb the tranquillity, yet ultimately subsiding to a whisper.

By his own admission, Lewis Harding is not a jazz musician by nature but has the intuition and good taste of knowing what should be played and when. His solos are often brief, and it is the architecture of these compact and neat musical statements that are a compelling component of his playing. With the quality of compositions and playing throughout, this is indeed  a very fine album.

Reviewed by Nick Lea
Jazz Views July 2022
Lewis Harding Music LHM 001

More details on this fabulous album. Listen, download, purchase:-
https://lewisharding.bandcamp.com/releases

Guitar, Jazz, Music

“Maybe you should write a jazz album”

This is how Lewis Harding’s excellent debut jazz album ‘Palm Thievery’ started, here’s the story behind the recording.

Lewis Harding – Palm Thievery

Regular client, Lewis, was at the studio one day having just recorded a couple of his new tracks with Kate Hogg featured playing Alto and Tenor Saxophones. The two tracks (‘Above’ and ‘Hue 6’) were originally destined for an ambient guitar-based album, but had taken on a definite jazz feel with Kate’s lyrical Sax melodies and improvisations.

“Maybe you should write a jazz album”, someone said to Lewis.

Kate Hogg – Saxes and Flute

As the world came to a grinding halt in early 2020 Lewis, out of gigs and the studio closed, used the time to write more melodies and chord lines with a jazz feel in mind.

Before long there was an album worth of tunes and as life briefly eased up Lewis came to The Playroom to start laying down guide chords and melody lines so that we could work on the arrangements. The challenges of recording an album when so restricted with opening hours and numbers of players at once became the next hurdle.

Tom Phelan – Piano

Next a call to Tom Phelan (another regular at the studio) who Lewis had met years previously and we were recording piano parts. This gave Mike Saunders (resident engineer and orchestrator) enough of a framework to write horn section parts. Later on in the process Tom returned to record some fantastic piano solos (‘Above’, ‘Octopods’, ‘Hue 6’ and ‘Palm Thievery’).

Terry Pack – Double Bass

In the meantime, taking the opportunity of being allowed out of our houses, we arranged for Terry Pack (Double Bass) and Dave Cottrell (Drums) to record for a couple of days (Terry in the booth, Dave in the live room) which gave all the pieces a real lift as well as finalising the feel and layout of the arrangements.

Studio friend Richard Horne popped in to record the fiendish vibraphone parts. ‘Octopods’ particularly was a ‘bit of a headache’, but as this was a ‘no cut, copy and paste’ album, (all you hear on the album is played for real by all the musicians), we took time to rehearse and perfect. His 4-mallet chord work on the ballads is sublime.

Richard Horne – Vibraphone

Time to get noisy! On to the horns. Mike had written parts for the horns for all the ‘heads’ and sectional work so it was easy to adhere to social distancing by having one player at a time come to the studio. With such a solid rhythm section already in place, timing was never an issue.

First up:- Julian Nicholas came to record Baritone Sax and Tenor Sax. After the heads and section parts were recorded we let him loose on some free solo sections in ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Palm Thievery’, ‘Nine Steps Between’ and a marvellous show-stopping Baritone Sax solo on ‘Octopods‘.

Charlotte Glasson spent a morning recording Soprano Sax and Alto Sax to the sectional parts, and added some gorgeous clean lines of improvisation on ‘George’s Salamander’ and ‘Clues in Bhutan’.

Charlotte Glasson – Saxes

And finally for the horn section Martijn Van Galen, an old friend of the studio, came to top-off the sound on Trumpet and Flugelhorn. Great playing and marvellous solos on ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Octopods’ and ‘Nine Steps Between’.

Martijn Van Galen – Trumpet and Flugelhorn

So to the finishing off. The beauty of being the boss was that Lewis could wait to add his final guitar parts and solo sections at the end of the recording process. A couple of weeks of popping in and out and trying ideas and we had them all down. Just right.

Lewis Harding at The Playroom, Arundel

The final stage of any recording is mixing. The secret of this album was to get the overall balance of each of the tracks to sound similar, to ‘join up’ the horn section and make the recording sound like the band were together and recorded at once, when actually, as we know, it was recorded in bits and pieces over a long period of time.

Mike Saunders – Orchestration and Mixing

‘Mixing great musicians makes the job easier,’ Mike said. So actually it didn’t take long. And, as the world was still ‘closed’ there was no real rush to finish which gave time for long breaks between listening and a real chance to find the little bits that would ultimately end up being annoying if left. Once finalised, the mixes were sent to Simon Gibson at Abbey Road Studios in London for mastering before being sent for duplication.

So, we give you ‘Palm Thievery‘, Lewis Harding’s debut jazz album – we hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we have enjoyed making it.

Buy and/or download now from Bandcamp.

https://lewisharding.bandcamp.com/releases