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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