Album review: MO FOSTER & FRIENDS – In Concert

Mo Foster chatted to David Randall for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio about his career, illustrated with a selection of session and solo tracks.  First broadcast 31 January 2021.


Right Track Records [Release date 21.03.21]

Mo Foster is best known for lending his bass talents to any number of other artists’ works, including Jeff Beck and Phil Collins.  More recently, prior to Lockdown, Mo was touring his current band and fortunately they recorded a gig in London late in 2019.  This forms the basis of the album, with one track ‘Chickens’ recorded “remotely” as a result of the pandemic.

The album concept came about in the face of adversity.  Foster had gathered a group of musicians to play at the launch of Linda Hoyle’s solo album.  Linda backed out a couple of weeks before the gig due to illness and so it left Foster with a bunch of musicians and no vocalist.

Three tracks are taken from the collective’s very first gig with no prior rehearsal including one of the album highlights ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’ (made popular by Miles Davis).  This sets the template with Foster’s bass holding everything into a solid groove and reminding a little of Herbie Hancock’s jazz fusion sorties at the turn of the 1960s.  Miles is also referenced on the Porgy & Bess tune ‘Gone Gone Gone’ whilst his one-time acolyte Wayne Shorter features with ‘Footprints’.

‘Mo Foster & Friends In Concert’ is really a trip through Foster’s jazz influences, especially, er, “fostered” during sorties to Ronnie Scotts in the late 1960s both as a punter and as a player.  He subsequently toured with the great jazz composer (and Miles collaborator) Gil Evans – celebrated here with ‘The Pan Piper’ and a swinging ‘Gone’ – and has always kept a soft spot for the jazz standards.

Sometimes jazz can be a little cerebral but Foster, always with an ear for melody, has picked the more accessible pieces for this collection.  One of his bass heroes Jaco Pastorious is recalled on ‘Three Views Of A Secret’ whilst ‘Some Echoes’ and ‘And On The Third Day’ pay tribute to Mike Gibbs.  Alan Toussaint’s ‘On Your Way Down’ provides a nice, and welcome, slice of R&B.

The band he has gathered around him are amongst the very best on the jazz circuit including his long standing right hand man, guitarist Ray Russell, Chris Biscoe on saxes, Jim Watson (keyboards), Nic France (drums) and Corrina Silvester (percussion).

Foster allows the indulgence of his own composition ‘Oh No’ which features Russell’s consistently impressive guitaring (and guest Frank Ricotti on percussion) whilst ‘Who’s There?’ connects with  Mo’s early jazz fusion band Affinity whose vocalist was … Linda Hoyle.

It was when playing with Affinity at Ronnie Scotts, supporting the Gary Burton Quartet, that Mo first heard the final track – ‘Chickens’ – then with bassist Steve Swallow who has subsequerntly hailed this as the definitive version.

In fact it’s the homespun compositions that provide standouts with ‘So Far Away’ reminding me that it was originally recorded by Jeff Beck and then appeared on a Gary Moore live album.  Ray Russell provides the Beck-esque phrasing on this version.

This is a great album to allay any misconceptions about jazz.  Beautifully played and produced, an album to be savoured in half light and with a good Bourbon.  ****

Review by David Randall

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.

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