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A Table Near the Band

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Album Review

In 1988, guitarist/composer Ray Russell climbed onto the Montreux Jazz Festival stage with a crack band comprised of rhythm team Mo Foster and Simon Phillips, trumpeter Stuart Brooks, and keyboardists Tommy Eyre and Tony Hymas. The success of their show convinced Russell to capture this unit for posterity, and bolstered by saxophonists Iain Ballamy and Tony Roberts, the group entered the studio. A Table Near the Band was the result, a set originally released in 1989 and now reissued by Angel Air. Within, the group laid down seven pieces in a range of fusion styles, but all given the cinematic sheen that today is Russell's trademark. "Guadeloupe" opens the set in fine style, a delightful number that swings from synth-led rock to avant-garde jazz, all spiced up by calypso-fied Latin flavors. Crossing the Atlantic, the group revisits Gil Evans' "London," with the late keyboardist helping rework his composition, blending together blues, jazz, and rock into a smoky piece that echoes of the capital's jazz club past. "Snow (A Passing Phase)" was composed by Russell for the movie Colorado, and here lightning strikes of guitar slice through a frigid vista. "Avian," in contrast, with its percolating rhythm and jazzy piano and sax, soars in and out of prog rock — as does the rest of the set, as the musicians blur the boundaries between free-form jazz and '70s rock, with the set ending with the title track's exploration of pure avant-garde jazz. The musicianship is as high caliber as one would expect, and the pieces' shifting moods and styles keep listeners' attention riveted. A thoroughly enjoyable set.

Biography

Born: 04 April 1947 in England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Guitarist Ray Russell may be the most successful member of the final lineup of the John Barry Seven, having gone on to a serious and highly regarded career in jazz and rock in England over the ensuing decades. Russell's introduction to the John Barry Seven came when he read in the music press that the band's longtime lead guitarist, Vic Flick, was leaving the group — he auditioned on a day off his from regular job and won the spot by pretending that he could read music; he learned musical notation...
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A Table Near the Band, Ray Russell
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