Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. In the liner notes for his new CD Chasing The Sun sax-man Mark Hollingsworth offers the view that in recent years a lot of music, including certain kinds of jazz, has become pretty rigid and very predictable. He compares this to the days of his youth when, growing up listening to radio in Chicago, he was able to access a wide variety of styles and genres. Now, as the culmination of a lifetime search to embrace the richness of good music that is unfettered by boundaries or limitations, he has written and produced fourteen of the most diverse tracks found on any single CD this year. In so doing Hollingsworth has delivered a contemporary jazz album that possesses a level of intelligence way above the norm.
The collection opens with ‘Spirit Of Adventure’ which, from its complex intro, smoothes into a passionate slice of ‘on the money’ contemporary jazz. The tune is further enhanced by a terrific organ solo from Curtis Brengle while for ‘Open Throttle’ Hollingsworth allows his full rich sound to take centre stage. Jazzy in an accessible kind of a way it’s a cut that establishes a theme for much of the album and which next emerges with ‘Spice Of Life’. Bill Armstrong on trumpet and Nick Lane on trombone provide the funky backing and in fact Hollingsworth cleverly takes the groove on which the track is built to create ‘Crawfish Pie’ that, unsurprisingly, is replete with influences right out of New Orleans. Later he also harvests the groove from the moody and exotic ‘Darwin’s Voyage’ for the equally atmospheric ‘Stowaway’ which, given adequate imagination, could well evoke reflections of square riggers on warm Pacific waters.
The bluesy introduction to ‘A Higher Plane’ paves the way for a stomping upbeat roller coaster ride while ‘Undercurrents’ is structured around a complex labyrinth of rhythms that at times are soothing and at others invigorating. ‘Doing My Own Thing’ finds Hollingsworth doing just that. In a virtuoso performance he slips effortlessly between tenor, alto and baritone sax and when he switches to flute for ‘Sambarosa’ he weaves a delicious Latin spell that is a joy to behold. The title of ‘Tropic Breeze’ says it all as Hollingsworth’s charming playing suggests the swaying of palm trees and the rushing of surf. It is one of the album’s standouts and another comes with the title track. Latin spiced, and with an intro that would not be out of place on the soundtrack to a ‘Bond’ movie, it evolves into a shimmering melodic delight that is sure to find favour amongst radio audiences. That said the first cut under consideration for airplay is ‘High Velocity’. With Armstrong and Lane again providing a big and brassy foundation the energy is always high and tempered only by Hollingsworth whose tone, on occasions, takes on an intoxicatingly soulful vibe.
Chasing The Sun sets Mark Hollingsworth apart as someone who is daring to be different. Consequently it’s refreshing that the album is catching the attention of traditional jazz stations as well as those of contemporary and smooth jazz persuasion. Given that several have already added three or more tracks to their play-lists, the chances are Hollingsworth is set for quite a 2008. For more go to www.markhollingsworth.comPosted by Denis Poole at December 25, 2007 8:48 AM