Seattle born, UK based alto saxophonist, Allison Neale, released her fifth album on Ubuntu Music in the autumn of last year. On Quietly There she is accompanied by the superb American guitarist, Peter Bernstein, and the experienced rhythm section of Dave Green (bass) and Steve Brown (drums).
It’s an album that will appeal to fans of the laid-back 1950s West Coast jazz of Art Pepper, Paul Desmond and Bud Shank. To that extent, there’s a slightly old-fashioned feel to the album, but it’s highly enjoyable nonetheless. In the same vein, the material relies wholly on standards, although Neale has wisely chosen some lesser-known tunes by well-known composers.
The album opens with a slow waltz through Darn That Dream. There’s a delightful tone to Neale’s playing, and Bernstein’s solo inevitably brings to mind the work of Jimmy Raney with Stan Getz in the early 1950s.
Split Kick by Horace Silver has more of a hard bop feel, and sees the quartet pick up the pace slightly, Bernstein contributing some nice touches as Neale delivers a longer solo.
The title track, by Johnny Mandel, is played a cool bossa nova, and reminds me of some of the gentle 1960s recordings by Bud Shank. There’s a light, airy solo by Neale, before Bernstein delivers an elegant, tasteful solo of his own.
Listen to Quietly There here:
I was less familiar with Motion by Jimmy Raney, but it is another more uptempo piece, with Steve Brown setting the pace. The close of the tune sees him trading ideas with Bernstein, which is fun to hear.
The Rodgers and Hart ballad Spring Is Here gives us a chance to appreciate Neale’s undeniable strength as a ballad player. In the liner notes, Neale suggests that in Bernstein’s playing she hears “similar qualities to the ones I admire so much in the recordings of my musical influences,” and that is apparent from his delicate solo.
Neale plays the introduction to John Lewis’s 2 Degrees East 3 Degrees East alone, but bass player Dave Green takes the first solo, and impresses, as he does throughout. This track also features some lovely interplay between Neale and Bernstein, which demonstrates the strong chemistry between these two musicians.
The album closes with a quiet duet between Neale and Bernstein on I Should Care, which feels like an appropriate way to bring the album to a close.
With jazz branching off in some many new directions, the influence of laid-back, smooth West Coast jazz has faded somewhat, but Quietly There is a reminder of its timeless appeal. Recommended.