THE JAZZ DEFENDERS; Memory in Motion (Haggis Records)

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 We’ve been following the trajectory of UK quintet, THE JAZZ DEFENDERS since the release of their 2019 album ‘Scheming’. We learned that the band first came together in 2015 and consisted of leader and pianist George Cooper, Nicholas Dover (sax), Nick Malcolm (trumpet), Will Harris (bass) and Matt Brown (drums). We also learned that the fivesome came together via their mutual love and respect for soul-jazz and classic hard bop – the music of the Golden Age of Blue Note, if you would. And that ‘Scheming’ LP proved that the combo really did “get” those genres.

Now five years down the line the Defenders are launching this,  their latest album, ‘Memory In Motion’ – the follow up to the 2022 set ‘King Phoenix’ on which the band expanded their palette to include a touch of hip-hop and some cinematic flavourings.

Like that previous set, ‘Memory In Motion’ offers plenty of variety and though there have been the inevitable personnel changes (Ian Matthews, replacing Matt Brown on the drum stool and Jake McMurchie taking the sax role from Nick Dover), the sound of the band is essentially as it was on their evolving,  previous albums.

So yes, expect plenty of cool, contemporary soul-jazz. The jaunty opener, ‘Meanderthal’ is a good example – a concise four minutes, allowing the various players to stretch. ‘The Long Haul’ is a little tighter while ‘Changing Fantasies’ is real builder. Soul-jazz highlight though is ‘Fuffle Kershuffle’ – never mind the “shuffle” this one struts! A little different is the more experimental ‘Net Zero’. This features playful rhythms and spacey brass work, creating a complex aural picture.

The ”cuckoos” in this nine track nest are ‘Rolling On A High’ and the closing ‘Enigma’. The former sees the Defenders continue their dalliance with hip hop with Doc Brown delivering his words over a brassy soundscape – reminiscent in many ways of those great Guru ‘Jazzamtazz’ albums. That leaves ‘Enigma’. This one was recorded live in Paris in the autumn of last year and it’s  essentially a poignant George Cooper piano showcase –  a subtle and gentle ending to the album.

The Jazz Defenders: Memory In Motion, released Friday 19th April.

(BB) 3/5