THE JAZZ DEFENDERS; Scheming (Haggis Records)

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The Jazz Defenders are a UK quintet formed by pianist George Cooper. The rest of the band is Nicholas Dover (sax), Nick Malcolm (trumpet), Will Harris (bass) and Matt Brown (drums). They came together in 2015 drawn by a mutual love and respect for soul-jazz and classic hard bop – the music of the Golden Age of Blue Note, if you would.

‘Scheming’ is their debut long player (I think) and it begins in lively fashion with ‘Top Down Tourism’. Prefaced by Cooper’s sparkling piano, it takes summery flight when the horns kick in before the intricate piano solo. Plenty more of the same piano/horn synergy on the bluesy ‘Everybody’s Got Something’, the bumpy, percussive ‘Late’ and the lovely slow burner that is ‘Rosie Karma’.

The quintet tip their collective hat to soul-jazz as Cooper takes to the Hammond on the album title track and ‘She’ll Come Round’. The bass-led ‘Costa Del Sol’ is the big Latin moment while ‘Hawkeye Jorge’ and ‘Brown Down’ could be themes to 60s art house movies ensuring that the Defenders tick all the boxes that classic jazz albums seem to demand. Clearly that’s what they’ve been keen to do. Sticking to their mission statement to celebrate the Golden Age of Blue Note, Impulse etc, they leave little to chance and offer music across the genre spectrum. Even the art work and sleeve layout strives for authenticity. By the way, if you’re intrigued by the album’s label – Haggis Records; it’s a new imprint set up by the funky Haggis Horns who also have a penchant for classic jazz… and in the Jazz Defenders they’ve found soul mates… or should that be jazz mates? Released December 6th.

(BB) 3/5