Everybody knows the extent to which I admire Mike Carr's musicianship - everybody that is, who read the two or three raves I have given him in the Ronnie Scott's Club house magazine.
Composer, arranger, pianist, vibraphonist, and above all, organist, Mike Carr never fails to knock you out on any of his chosen instruments. On organ though, he is simply the best - and I mean in the world. Hyperbole? I don't think so. Just give him a listen. Instead of the jumble of indistinct noise that is often the hallmark of just about every other jazz organist on the planet, you will hear beautifully constructed solos with a clarity and articulation that leaves you breathless.
He is more informed by Hank Mobley or Lee Morgan than he is by either of the Jimmies (McGriff and Smith). He is for me the only true be-bop organist.
The musicians Mike has played with read like a Who's Who of Jazz from both sides of the Atlantic. From Dizzy Gillespie to Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas to Kenny Clarke, Illinois Jacquet to Scott Hamilton, and of course, the late Ronnie Scott, these are just a few of the great names who have benefited from Mike's playing.
Mike could be said to have reached the status of elder statesman, where it not for his boundless youthful enthusiasm. Like Dizzy, a long time friend, who remained hugely enthusiastic to the end of his days and championed many talented young musicians, Mike has discovered and brought together a bunch of young musicians whose skills belie their ages. In Steve Kaldestad, a fine ex-pat Canadian tenor player, and the twenty-five year old Fishwick twins (Steve on trumpet and Matt at the traps), Mike has discovered a trio of soul mates. The twins are amazing. They're from Manchester I believe, but sound more like they've come from Manhattan. Young boppers. It does my heart good to hear them!
The music that the group produces is intended to remind us of the great Blue Note sound of the '50s and '60s - but with its own up-dated slant.
The group achieves its aims magnificently.
The formation of the new group came about by chance. Mike was on his way home and stopped off at a pub in Hampstead called the Sir Richard Steele to hear a bebop quintet that featured two amazing brothers - twins, Steve and Matt Fishwick. Mike was knocked out by their playing and saxophonist Steve Kaldestad, who was in the pub at the time, called out, "Hey Mike, why don't we start a group with the twins". Mike took this on board and a short while after ran into the twins at Ronnie Scott's Club. As soon as they saw Mike they rushed over and said, "When can we start rehearsing?" Mike replied, "Next week". That was around a year ago, since when they've been gigging and preparing to go into the studio to cut this excellent debut album. Mike not only plays organ (just listen to those bass lines) and piano on the album - but also the vibes, an instrument he hasn't really played for years. It would seem, however, that vibes playing to Mike is like riding a bike to the rest of us. It's something you never forget!
All the selections were composed and arranged by Mike, save for the final piece "Lefty's Tune" which is by Mike's old buddy, Gary Cox. "Stevenson's Rocket" is a tribute to drummer and old friend Ronnie Stevenson who sadly died only days after these tracks were recorded. The album is dedicated to Ronnie.
Come on then you bop fans. Listen to this fine album, you'll want to play it over and over again. Give thanks that someone in the world is keeping the flag flying.
Bless you Mike!
Click here to read the album reviews.