Album review: COLIN HARPER – Sunset Cavaliers

COLIN HARPER - Sunset Cavaliers

Market Square Records MSMCD172 [Release date 16.02.16] www.colin-harper.com

Like fellow music journalist/writer David Sinclair, Colin Harper has seen fit to cross the sometimes perilous divide between writer and performer (poacher turned gamekeeper?), evidently inspired by some of the subjects of his literary endeavours in recent years.

Harper is a musicologist who has breathed life into biographies of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Wishbone Ash amongst others.  He’s also written reviews for and Mojo magazine.  Colin and myself share a love of Jan Akkerman’s music and we grouped together with a few die-hards in 1997 when Akkerman was welcomed back to the UK.

‘Sunset Cavaliers’ is a collection of pieces that have developed organically since 2013.  It seems that Harper has carefully evaluated, re-visited, and tweaked where appropriate and in doing so he has also enlisted, or resurrected, various well-known musicians along the way.

What emerges is a really fine album that sounds consistent and one to while away the small hours.  Mostly instrumental and jazz fusion in its lightest and most accessible form but with an undeniable groove throughout.   Celtic jazz folk fusion, anyone?

This is particularly displayed on the all-too-short title track, which features Linley Hamilton’s wonderful  fluegel horn and would be the perfect Sunday accompaniment to a cup of Java and the Guardian crossword.  ‘Blues For The End Of Time’ similarly takes a repeat motif to envelop the listener in what is a wonderful ensemble piece, the essentially pastoral groove only sullied by Shane Pacey’s slightly too, er, pacy guitar lines.

To add to the muso authenticity,  Harper also has Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Steve Kindler (violin) and Premik Russell Tubbs (sax) on several tracks.  Elsewhere Chris Spedding livens up ‘Blues For The Mahavishnu’ whilst Andy Powell (Wishbone Ash) appears on the gently funky ‘Hebridean Seas In Winter’ complete with lapping wave effects and uillean pipes.

Only the long acoustic duet – ‘Slight Return’ – with Brooks Williams seems slightly indulgent but you may not notice sipping that coffee.  The album fills out with a few vocal tracks and pieces that Harper thought would fit well with the overall vibe.

So we have a rare outing for the late Duffy Powers (whose music Harper both championed and curated) and Bert Jansch’s 2004 recording of ‘Blues For A Green Earth’.  And Sarah McQuaid does her best Bridget St John monotone on ‘Three Syllable Time’ which is, nevertheless, strangely appealing.

Aided throughout by long-term collaborators Cormac O’Kane (keys) and Ali MacKenzie (bass) ‘Sunset Cavaliers’ is – much like his writing – testimony to Harper’s industry, musicality, and evident good taste.  *****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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