We review the new album from Alex Hitchcock – Dream Band

A respected saxophonist and composer in London’s vibrant jazz scene, Alex Hitchcock brings together a 15-strong team of musicians from either side of the pond on his new album – the aptly named ‘Dream Band’.

Continuing his association with the Spanish label Fresh Sound New Talent, Hitchcock’s 2019 release ‘All Good Things’ certainly showcased some top home-grown artists. ‘Dream Band’, comprised of 12 tracks, exceeds expectations by pushing the collaboration across the Atlantic.

Featuring a who’s-who of London jazz including Jazz FM vocalist of the year Cherise Adams-Burnett, BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Deschanel Gordon and multi-genre cellist/vocalist Midori Jaeger – alongside revered New York names Chris Cheek, Jason Brown and David Adewumi. Hitchcock finds himself in some dreamy company indeed.

Recorded across three London studio sessions in the Spring of this year with a different arrangement of musicians each day – the undertaking of this album and such a large group of artists on one project could have proved to be a tricky feat. However, Alex Hitchcock’s flair as arranger and bandleader shine through in this strong collection of tracks – which not only stand on their own, but also flow beautifully as a whole.

Opening track ‘Wolf and Nina’ is a stand out from the off. Featuring the wonderful Midori Jaeger on voice and cello, with accompaniment from Hitchcock himself, Will Sach on bass, pianist Deschanel Gordon and Jas Kayser on drums. The enchanting almost aching quality of Jaegar’s vocals are complimented by the soothing tone of Hitchcock’s sax. Something which is laced intricately throughout the record.

This same ensemble come together again on the instrumental track ‘Overcome Any Obstacle with a Horse’ – perhaps a nod to the album’s cover art which features a photograph of two white horses against a woodland backdrop.

Midori Jaeger and Hitchcock reunite once more with a tender duet of Duke Ellington’s ‘Azalea’ (the only non-original composition on the album) featuring a haunting yet elegantly simple arrangement which allows Jaeger’s voice to be fully appreciated.

Cherise Adams-Burnett lends her vocals on tracks ‘to love itself’ and ‘FSTL’, which despite their ‘wordlessness’ still manage to convey a haunting sense of melancholy. The latter, ‘FTSL’, in particular (featuring the tenor sax of Chris Creek) is almost ethereal in sound.

Further instrumental jazz numbers which appear to resemble Hitchcock’s earlier sound include ‘Yeshaya’, ‘Simulacra’ and ‘Embers’ – featuring pianist Noah Stoneman, drummer Jason Brown and Ferg Ireland on bass.
Final track ‘And Then’ brings together musicians Will Barry on piano, Joe Downard on bass, drummer Shane Forbes and David Adewumi on trumpet. Closing out this album, it feels like a chance for this ensemble to really let loose and have some fun. A quality that is really quite tangible.

With this album, Hitchcock hasn’t brought together just one ‘dream band’, more like three! Pulling together some of the most diverse and remarkable talent within the jazz genre – it’s a big project, but a strong one. A complete and captivating listen.