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The New Couriers Reviews

 

1. Times Online
2.  The Guardian  (gig)
3.  Bedford Jazz Club
4.  London Evening Standard
5.  The Guardian  (CD)
6.  The Observer
7.  The Independent-on-Sunday
8.  J.A.R.S  (Jazz at Ronnie Scott's)
9.  The Musician  (Journal of The Musicians Union)
10.  Jazz UK CD
11.  Jazz UK Gig
12. Jazz UK Scene & Heard
13. Jazz Journal
14. The Independent-on-Sunday (Ken Peplowski)

15. Southport Visitor
16.
RAFA Club

 

 

TIMES ONLINE

January 21, 2004

New Jazz Couriers

by Alyn Shipton

Jazz

Pizza Express Jazz Club

****

For less than two years, between 1957 and 1959, the tenor saxophonists Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott fronted one of the most powerful and innovative groups in British jazz. As well as providing a platform for some celebrated jousting contests between the two, the Jazz Couriers generated a sizeable library of original arrangements that have largely gone unheard since.

Hayes died in 1973, but before his own death in 1996, Scott found another sparring partner in the shape of Mornington Lockett, whose tenor playing has something of the same fiery brilliance as Hayes.

In 2001, Lockett and Scott's former drummer Martin Drew, put a band together to revive the Couriers repertoire. Initially, the quintet used a similar two-saxophone front line, but recently this has changed, and at its first Pizza Express appearance of the new year, with vibes player Jim Hart teamed with Lockett.

Hart is more familiar to audiences as the most recent drummer with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, but his vibes playing is a revelation. Not only does he have the speed and dexterity to shadow Lockett through the fastest hard-bop tempi, but he combines the precise mallet-work of a masterly percussionist with free-flowing invention. Many vibraphonists are stylistically in thrall to Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson or Gary Burton, but while Hart occasionally uses Burton's four-mallet approach, his phrasing owes more to the saxophone playing of Scott and Hayes than to other vibes players.

Hart's best playing was on a lovingly transcribed arrangement of Stella by Starlight, where he took what had once been the lead saxophone part, and stretched it into a long, fascinating vibes solo. He was on equally good form on Azule Serape , a piece written by another British vibes player, Victor Feldman, for the 1950s Cannonball Adderley band.

What transforms the New Couriers from being just another tribute band is the intensity of its playing. The dark-suited Lockett, the muscles of his face knotted in concentration, projects energy and fire. His dexterity and rapidity of fingering suggests not only the sound of Hayes but, on Clark Terry's Opus Ocean, brought to mind the high-speed pyrotechnics of Johnny Griffin.

Such playing draws out the best in Drew, who is such a ubiquitous feature of the London scene that he can be forgiven for coasting from time to time. But there was no sense of coasting here. His forceful beat, lightness on the cymbals and subtle turnarounds propelled the band with a vigour that would have done the original Couriers proud.

 

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New Jazz Couriers

3 stars Pizza Express Jazz Club, London

John Fordham

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The Guardian

 

Both the late-1950s British bop band, The Jazz Couriers and the contemporary group, the New Couriers, march a lot of notes up a hill and down again, with a sound that echoes a long-gone British jazz era in which the locals groups were determined to prove they could be as technically dazzling as the Americans.  But the 21st-century version of the Couriers blend the competitive energy and the inventiveness of the tricksy arrangements of the original band with a calmer but still persuasive musically.

The original Couriers were a two-tenor sax line-up mixing Tubby Hayes's mercurial bebop agility and Ronnie Scott's more refined lyricism.   The latest version retains Scott's former sax partner Mornington Lockett on tenor, but adds a skilful young vibes player in Jim Hart. Paul Morgan is on bass and the swinging Martin Drew on drums.  Morgan, a phenomenal straight-ahead bassist, usually diverted from the jazz circuit by a studio and session career, is one of the world's bass magicians.

The Couriers touched on plenty of Hayes originals and favourite jazz classics at this show, and even one of the late Scott's rare compositions, Some of My Best Friends Are Blues.  The old swaggering roar of the two-sax ensemble is missing, but Lockett covered much of it on his own, often in seamlessly intense double-time, and vibraphonist Hart sustained a percussive directness, fleetness of phrasing and classic-swing vibe, notably on an appropriately glittering account of Stella By Starlight.

The occasional blandness of tunes originally written for a jazz world with close ties to the pre-rock dance floor was offset by the drive of the improvising.  Morgan's full-bodied bass walk was the heartbeat of the up tempo music, his vibrato and flicked harmonics anchored the delicate ballad, Serenity.  Pianist Steve Melling played with economical insight on a Clark Terry swinger written for Hayes.  Jazz as straight-ahead as it gets, but played with exuberance and heart.

 

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Bedford Jazz Club
The Entertainment Shed
The Gordon Arms, Castle Road, Bedford
The New Jazz Couriers
Saturday, 30th October 2004

Two years ago this band came to the Ent. Shed in one of its previous incarnations under the moniker Celebrating The Jazz Couriers. With changes to line-up, instrumentation and repertoire, the band still celebrate the music of Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott. Though according to drummer and compere for the evening, Martin Drew, they've 'diversified'. The material still slants heavily towards the compositions and arrangements of Messrs. Hayes and Scott, but tonight they also featured tunes from Victor Feldman, Clark Terry and Jimmy Deuchar. However, since these three were all at one time or another in cahoots with either Hayes / Scott I Jazz Couriers, we seem to have a rather parochial diversification here!

No matter, this is fine music played in a spirit of celebration. No mere slavish tribute band, the New Couriers are producing unique sounds in their own right. And if they can open anyone's ears to the sounds made by the original Jazz Couriers a long time ago, then that's all to the good.

In terms of personnel change, one facet of the Jazz Couriers has given way to another. Saxist Nigel Hitchcock has stepped aside to be replaced by a young vibes player in Jim Hart. So the twin tenors (a la Hayes and Scott) have been dispensed with, and instead there's a front line of tenor and vibes (likewise a la Hayes and Scott). For those who don't know, Tubby Hayes played two instruments. There's also a new bassist, one Paul Morgan - who I haven't come across before, but on this showing I would like to hear more of him.

Energy seems a defining characteristic of much of this music. Both inherent in the music and coming from the musicians themselves. Just to watch Jim Hart perform, darting about the vibraphone, hammers flying in a blur of motion; he conjured power and passion from an instrument that at times I've thought to have a limited and laid-back sound.

'Power and passion' is a phrase I'd more readily associate with the saxophone. So suffice it to say that Mornington Lockett's playing gave out plenty of both. All swooping and soaring phrases and screaming staccato runs of notes. He held centre stage as he contributed to an overall sound that I'll describe - to borrow Duke Ellington borrowing from Shakespeare - as "such sweet thunder".

To look a moment at the sweetness rather than the thunder. . . Victor Feldman's 'Serenity' was a perfectly titled slow ballad. It showcased the rhythm section and illustrated the way that Paul Morgan and pianist Steve Melling worked together throughout. Here the tune was played on the piano around a repeated a bass figure, and moved between trills of notes in the upper register to a richer, darker sound. Morgan meanwhile went on to a more conventional bass line, and then to a solo of his own. As he returned to his initial motif, it emphasised just how beautiful that sound was, somehow meshed together with the piano.

This was followed, in an absolute contrast, by Clark Terry's 'Opus Ocean'. A hard driving rhythmic piece with the sax much to the fore, screaming arpeggios growing from the statement of the theme. The word 'thunder' could be applied to much of Martin Drew's drumming, and here he contributed a solo that was exactly that - having been content to gently keep time in the previous number. On material such as this bass and piano necessarily took on a more rhythmic role, the bass lines racing at speed yet doing far more than just keeping up. And then there were passages in the music where again they came to the fore, in a kind of unison that made it hard to know who was leading and who was the accompanist.

This was music that combined an intensity with much that was tuneful and engaging. Ensemble work of a high order, each player bringing something unique and striking, yet no one part ever becoming greater than the whole.

Paul Gardner

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Jazz
Evening Standard esreview
14 January 2005
The New Jazz Couriers
Azule Serape
(Trio Records  TR567)

****
*

SLUGGISH, listless, depressed?  Flush out your tired aural channels with a refreshing blast of straight-ahead neo-bop in the style of the Jazz Couriers, that legendary quintet co-led by Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott.
Their fiery arrangements live on, lovingly transcribed from records by Mornington Lockett, a Hayes devotee whose tenor-sax solos have the exuberant fluency of a man who has been polishing his technique for more than twenty years.  Newcomer Jin Hart revives the nimble vibraphone sound that Hayes brought to the Couriers, while pianist Steve Melling, bassist Paul Morgan, and the mighty Martin Drew on drums keep everything steaming along.
Couriers favourites include Opus Ocean, Some of My Best Friends Are Blues, and the title track, a Victor Feldman classic, all taped live.

JACK MASSARIK

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The New Jazz Couriers, Azule Serape

3 stars (Trio)

John Fordham
Friday, January 14, 2005

The Guardian

A more orthodox angle on bebop, but an expertly affectionate one with stories of its own - not just the ones furnished by the idiosyncrasies of the players, but by the British jazz history that led to its founding.  The original Jazz Couriers was a two-tenor sax line-up jointly led by Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes, mixing Hayes' flying virtuosity with Scott's more measured approach.
UK drummer Martin Drew formed the New Couriers to celebrate their memory and their material.  This set features the 2004 edition, retaining former Scott sax partner Mornington Lockett on tenor, but adding lively young vibraphonist Jim Hart - still keeping the music in the Couriers loop, since Tubby Hayes also played the vibes, but spreading the repertoire to feature a wider range of composers such as Scott's contemporary Victor Feldman.
This version of the band is also remarkable for the inclusion of the bassist Paul Morgan, a world-class straight ahead performer whose walking bass lines are supercharged engines that accelerate every band he plays in.  One of Scott's very rare forays into composition is here - the laconically rolling Some of My Best Friends Are Blues - and vibist Hart makes up for the absence of a second tenor with his drum-like directness and bright sound, notably on an account of Stella By Starlight.  Steve Melling prods and echoes his partners tirelessly from the piano, Lockett has an engagingly dry, Hank Mobley-like, 1960s Blue Note sound, and Drew's drumming is propulsive and sympathetic.

 

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Jazz CD of the Week

Dave Gelly
Sunday, January 30, 2005
The Observer

The New Couriers
Azule Serape
(Trio 567)

Originally formed to revive the repertoire and bravura performance style of the Jazz Couriers - the band led by Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes in the late 1950s - the New Couriers have evolved into something broader and more adventurous. The repertoire now embraces pieces by other British jazz composers of that era, in this case three by the late Victor Feldman. This is the band's third release, recorded live last May, and for relaxed confidence allied to virtuosity it is quite outstanding. In place of two tenor saxophones, the front line consists of tenor sax (Mornington Lockett) and vibraphone (Jim Hart). It would be hard to beat the rhythm section of Steve Melling, Paul Morgan and Martin Drew for sheer drive, while the cool, bright sound of the vibraphone adds an attractive sparkle. The solo playing, especially Lockett's, is highly impressive.

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Jazz

****
Sholto Byrnes
Independent on Sunday, 30 January 2005

The New Couriers

Azule Serape

Trio Records

The New Couriers continue to be faithful to the line up of their inspiration, Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Couriers, by adding Jim Hart on Hayes's second instrument, the vibes. Propelled from the kit by Martin Drew, the Couriers offer crisp, up-tempo arrangements of tunes like "Stella", as well as numbers by Scott and Victor Feldman. For those too young to have heard the original Couriers, Drew and tenorist Mornington Lockett deserve thanks for demonstrating that Britain had its own alternative to the Messengers.

 

 

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The New Jazz Couriers

Azule Serape

(Trio Records TR 567)

J.A.R.S. March/April 2005

Recorded in London in May 2004, this infectiously exuberant yet consistently musicianly album captures the robust but elegant live sound of a new manifestation of the Couriers, initially formed by Ronnie Scott band stalwarts Martin Drew and Mornington Lockett to keep alight the torch of the legendary Jazz Couriers featuring Scott an Tubby Hayes. Instead of a two-horn front line, the new band sets Lockett alongside vibesman Jim Hart, enabling it to emulate its template even more closely, since Hayes used to double on vibes himself. That said, this is no over-reverent tribute band: it is essentially a joyous, barn-storming quintet straining at the leash to explore every musical nook and cranny of its material. Scott's 'Some of My Best Friends Are Blues' is a superbly vigorous opener, and the rest of the album, from 'Stella By Starlight' through a trio of Victor Feldman numbers to Clark Terry's storming closer, Opus Ocean, showcases the soloing skills not only of the hard-blowing, sinewy, terrier-with-a-rat tenorist Lockett but also those of the alternatively tumultuous and tender pianist Steve Melling and - a thrilling prospect for UK jazz - the mellifluous yet gutsy vibes player Jim Hart. Tirelessly and tastefully propelled by the doyen of UK straightahead drummers, Drew, and the lithe bass of Paul Morgan, this is a special album not only for its nostalgic associations but, more importantly, for its showcasing of the cream of British contemporary jazz in a perfect setting.

Chris Parker

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The Musician. Spring 2005

The New Couriers

Azule Serape

www.triorecords.co

Martin Drew, Mornington Lockett, Jim Hart, Paul Morgan, and Steve Melling are The New Couriers and with such names involved, this release was bound to be a treat. With three tracks by Victor Feldman plus Ronnie Scott's Some of My Best Friends Are Blues among the six on show, contemporary jazz fans cannot fail to be delighted by this live album from the Pizza Express in Soho.

 

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JAZZ U.K.   MARCH / APRIL 2005

The New Jazz Couriers

Azule Serape

Trio TR567

Martin Drew's band has moved on since its last outing on record. Star saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock has high-tailed it to the Isle of Skye - his replacement is vibist Jim Hart. Mornington Lockett now maintains the band's commitment to saxophonic virtuosity on his own; even the repertoire has widened. For all that, the group's penchant for exuberance is in safe hands: bassist Paul Morgan and Drew are power players and newcomer Hart is no slouch when it comes to swing.

It's worth remembering that the late Tubby Hayes doubled on vibes so nothing essential has been lost; arguably, much has been gained. As on 'Some Of My Best Friends Are Blues' which kicks off a life - threatening pace, Steve Melling's fluent piano sets the mood, before Lockett pours out his message and Hart follows, his harmonic alacrity and feeling for the adroit phrase shining through. Clark Terry's 'Opus Ocean' is almost too frantic but Lockett doesn't care, taking it all in his stride. Same goes for Hart. Exhilarating music. (PV)

 

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Jazz U.K. March / April 2004

The New Jazz Couriers
Pizza Express, Dean Street W.1.

 

THE JAZZ COURIERS, that high- speed, high-class bop band jointly run by the late Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes, continues to have its legacy burnished by the equally virtuosic attentions of saxophonist Mornington Lockett and drummer Martin Drew. With the departure of Nigel Hitchcock, the group has now drawn on the talents of a young newcomer on vibraphone (retaining the connection with multi-instrumentalist Tubby Hayes), the highly skilled and dynamic Jim Hart - and that greatest of unsung British bassists, the phenomenal Paul Morgan, has come in for Andy Cleyndert. On recent gigs, the revamped band has been exploring plenty of Tubby Hayes originals, and the departed musician's deft arrangements of classics - and it also plays a rare Ronnie Scott composition, 'Some of My Best Friends Are Blues'. Mornington Lockett was as thoughtfully forceful as ever on a recent visit to the Soho Pizza Express, Morgan's irresistible fast walk and startlingly adventurous, almost abstract solo gripped the room, and Martin Drew's cymbal sound kept everything airborne.

 

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JAZZ UK SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2005
Caedmon Hall, Gateshead

 

The New Couriers played an early summer date at Gateshead's Caedmon Hall - outstanding even within a period in which the nearby Sage Gateshead had brought such American giants as Ornette Coleman and McCoy Tyner to Tyneside.  Leader Martin Drew's powerhouse drum pulse and Paul Morgan's flowing bass underpinned explosive tenor from Mornington Lockett, piano cascades from Steve Melling, and some spinning vibes magic from Jim Hart.  As well as providing a definition of swing, it amply captured the spirit and dynamism of the original Jazz Couriers, even though the repertoire is now much broader than in Drew's earlier tribute band, Celebrating The Jazz Couriers.

Chris Yates

 

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JAZZ JOURNAL  FEBRUARY 2006

 

I came late to the New Jazz Couriers. I havenít heard any of their well-reviewed CDs and saw them first at the Southport Melodic Jazz Festival in February. Itís good to hear this kind of what I suppose is Hard Bop still alive and well and particularly since it seems to have produced a new star in the multi-gifted Jim Hart who plays vibes in the band but also, I am told, excels on piano and drums.

Martin Drew is a perceptive leader and, need it be said, a virtuoso and tasteful drummer. It was almost an hour into the first set before he took a solo. That set consisted of three Victor Feldman tunes and Tubby Hayesís Dear Johnny B . The Feldman library is one to savour and needs preserving. I hadnít heard any of these tunes of his before Ė they were Lisa, New Delhi and Serenity. Serenity was played by the trio and was a moving showcase for pianist Steve Melling and the cosmopolitan master bassist Paul Morgan.

Southport Melodic Jazz has for years presented tasteful and unusual concerts for a small audience of regulars in the town. This was their second 'Jazz on a Winterís Weekend'. Like Tom Baronís bash across the estuary in Blackpool the festival is encapsulated in a hotel. The typical Melodic Jazz line-up included Alan Barnes, Mark Nightingale, Bruce Adams, Steve Brown, Benn Clatworthy, Martin Taylor, Andy Panayi and others including the US pianist Joyce DiCamillo.

Steve Voce

 

 

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The Independent-on-Sunday

Ken Peplowski, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London ****

By Sholto Byrnes

Published: 14 June 2006

If there is a revival of interest in the jazz clarinet, men such as Ken Peplowski will deserve much of the credit. The 47-year-old American, who appeared on Sunday night with an excellent British rhythm section at the end of a three-week tour, reminds the listener that in the heyday of the swing era, it was two clarinettists, Artie Shaw and Peplowski's old boss Benny Goodman, who battled for the title of the "King of Swing".

At its best, the modern clarinet has none of the squawkiness sometimes evident on old trad records, but has a liquid honey tone and an unrivalled purity and swiftness of movement.

Peplowski's style is gentle on the ear. His solos are well-constructed, good-humoured, and relatively brief. It's as though he comes to a point where he realises he has nothing to add and, rather than go on he simply stops. Such lack of grandstanding is rare and generous in a leader.

His choice of material varied from familiar numbers such as "I Thought About You", to lesser-known parts of the Ellington canon. When Peplowski switched to the tenor, as on a frenetically paced "What is This Thing Called Love?", the ghosts of dozens of great big-band saxophonists - Paul Gonsalves, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - were thrillingly present.

Peplowski could not have wished for a better supporting cast than John Critchinson on piano, Alec Dankworth on bass and Martin Drew on drums. Critchinson and Peplowski had one of those unique moments when a dual solo took off, and the two fired off each other to the delight of audience and players. Dankworth anchored the slow and medium numbers with great tent pegs from his bass, produced some beautifully warm sustained notes, and displayed perfect intonation.

Drew is surely without peer in this mainstream modern tradition. He possesses a lovely brush technique on the snare, a silky shimmer on the ride cymbal, and gets a fast number crackling without his straining a muscle. A bulky man, Drew sits behind his kit like a jazz Buddha, his eyes shut, his stomach spilling into the toms, and occasionally scowling.

Come back more often, please, Mr Peplowski.

 

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SOUTHPORT VISITOR
Royal Clifton Hotel, Sunday 19th August 2007
Presented by Southport Melodic Jazz Club

Martin Drew and The New Couriers were more than welcome to give the club an encore, after their sell-out gig last February. This great band, led by Martin, one time house drummer at Ronnie Scott's Club, with Ronnie's various bands for twenty years, and thirty years with Oscar Peterson, keeps alive and current the music of Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes.

Tubby alternated between tenor and vibes, and it was Mornington Lockett who heard and immediately grabbed Jim Hart, one of the most talented vibraphone players on the scene to join the band.  Still in his twenties, Jim is just amazing, a truly great improviser. Paul Morgan on bass had everyone gasping at his ability to play melodic double bass. Mornington, on sax, is a world class 'straight-ahead' bebop saxophone player, in the Tubby Hayes tradition and Steve Melling ranks in anyone's list of top ten pianists. The band has three CDs' to it's credit, and a big following.  They are back by popular demand.

Melodic Jazz Club spokesman, Geoff Matthews said, "The New Couriers manage to keep this music as fresh as when Ronnie Scott first picked up the style from Charlie Parker and Dizzy in New York when he was part of the famed Geraldo's Navy on the great Atlantic liners in the late '40s and early '50s. It's still just great jazz, straight ahead, strong melody lines, and it swings like hell!"

 

 

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RAFA CLUB 20 JUNE 2008

New Jazz Couriers "On the Up"-

Yet another fantastic session at the RAFA last Friday, they keep coming along every month and each time the gig is unforgettable! Keep at it Coljazz. I know its a bit cheesy to say but if Ronnie and Tubbs were looking down from that jam session in the sky, I am sure they would have been shouting as loudly to the band as the RAFA audience were doing and encouraging them on to even greater things. And it struck me how much better it is to listen to a unit who plays and rehearses together regularly, than one with a guest soloist playing with a virtually unknown rhythm section. The NJC gelled from the start with the musicians sparking each off in different improvisational directions:- As for the guys themselves, Mornington Lockett was magnificent, feeding the crowd with tumbling phrases in a sort of Rollins type of way as well some fleet footed work on the soprano sax. He is surely one of the best saxophonists around and in my opinion, should have a higher profile in the music. I have seen Jim Hart a number of times at the Eagle and well know his jazz pedigree on vibes and drums. However tonight, his playing was on another level showing us a constant flow of ideas and delicious phrases for the audience to lap up. Jim reigns supreme! The rhythm section were tremendous with Steve Melling on keyboards leading the way with some dazzling piano work. Steve is a key member of the Couriers as he also contributes so much with new tunes and arrangements, an all round great guy. Martin Drew drove along behind the band with some breathtaking drumming and with Paul Morgan on bass also right on the button, gave everyone a perfect springboard to do "their thing".

I have heard that all the musicians really enjoyed the gig and cannot wait for a return one next year. Fix it NOW Coljazz!!!

Ian Fleckney  22 June 2008

 

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COURIERS    COURIER SOUNDS    COURIER REVIEWS    HOMEPAGE    SET-UP    CONTACT    LINKS        LCD (new)

NEW COURIERS    NEW COURIER SOUNDS    NEW COURIER REVIEWS    THE OSCAR PETERSON YEARS &TRIBUTE