Considering he was a self taught pianist, Brian Auger’s progress into the heart of the British modern jazz scene of the late 1950’s and early 60’s was particularly impressive. He gained invaluable experience the hard way, paying his dues at The Cottage Club, and the original Ronnie Scotts on Gerrard Street, working with renowned saxophonists Tommy Whittle, Dick Morrisey and Jimmy Skidmore – and sessions in smoky East End pubs with his friend, arguably Britain’s greatest jazz saxophonist Tubby Hayes.
The inclusion of several of his rare, early 60’s piano trio tracks on both volumes of ‘Back To The Beginning – The Brian Auger Anthology’ brought long overdue attention to Brian’s early jazz career, which many were simply unaware of prior to their release. The enthusiastic reaction to those tracks that stuck in Brian’s mind, and later, fate intervened, as he himself explains; “A couple of years later, Ken Greene, the Music Director of Bogie’s, called and told me that he was starting a project, to whit, a week at Bogie’s with a different jazz piano trio each night”.
The material Brian decided to play features tracks from a selection of his musical influences, heroes and friends including ‘Chelsea Bridge’ by one of his favourite composers, the great Billy Strayhorn, Freddie Hubbard’s ever green ‘Little Sunflower’, the much loved standard ‘There is No Greater Love’ which Brian used to play in his original early 60’s piano trio, and his own composition Victor’s Delight he wrote a tribute to the great English Jazz musician Victor Feldman who he first discovered via his tenure with The Cannonball Adderley Quintet.
Surprisingly, this is Brian’s very first jazz piano album of his illustrious and award winning career, and marks a return to the instrument and the music that first entranced and enthralled him as a young boy. His musical journey, which began in austere post war London, and on which he absorbed so many varied styles of music, and literally took him around the world, enrapturing audiences worldwide, has indeed come full circle. (Press release)
This release may be a surprise to some who associate Auger, quite correctly, with the rock music and performing pyrotechnics seated at the Hammond organ. During an illustrious career he has worked with the likes of Rod Stewart, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin and Led Zeppelin. An early claim to fame is that he played on ‘For Your Love’ by The Yardbirds. That was in 1965. A little later he formed Brian Auger and the Trinity. His duet with Julie Driscoll on Bob Dylan’s ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ reached number 5 on the UK Singles chart in 1965. Their joint album billed as Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity reached number 12 in the UK Albums Chart in the same year.
In 1970 Auger moved into the area of jazz fusion forming Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. Much more has happened in the intervening years, in fact, too much to detail here.
The “Live At Bogies” EP
So, with a background favouring rock, R&B and soul music, why should he now release a jazz trio album? Well, it’s not so unexpected as one might think. Auger began to hear jazz from an early age by way of the American Armed Forces Network and an older brother’s record collection. By his teens he was playing piano in clubs and by 1962 had formed the Brian Auger Trio with Rick Laird on bass and Phil Kinorra on drums, both of whom were later to join him in the Trinity. In 1964 he won first place in the categories of “New Star” and “Jazz Piano” in a reader’s poll in the Melody Maker music paper. He was even house pianist for a time at the original Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Gerrard Street. So his jazz credentials are clear to see.
Now the title of this new album becomes clear in that Auger’s career has indeed gone full circle. Auger plays a Steinway Grand Piano throughout with his son, Karma, behind the drums and Dan Lutz on both double bass and electric bass guitar. The set list is pleasantly varied, opening with the old jazz war-horse ‘A Night In Tunisia’, with the familiar opening vamp picked out on bass guitar and the trio soon hit the swinging stride. Next is ‘Creepin’ written by Joe Sample. This is soulful, funky playing from all concerned and there is a particularly nice bass guitar feature too. ‘For Dancers Only’ is a fine lightly swinging piece written by Sy Oliver which originally saw the light of day in 1937 and is here given a contemporary face lift.
The set continues with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’. Here I’m reminded of the music of Horace Silver, certainly no bad thing. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ gets a swinging bluesy treatment. Billy Strayhorn’s magnificent composition, ‘Chelsea Bridge’, gets a suitably reverent treatment. Bass guitar ushers in Miles Davis’ ‘All Blues’ – all very soulful.
There are ten tracks on the album, all but one having impressive jazz pedigrees, the only original composition is the pianist’s tribute to fellow keyboard maestro Victor Feldman, ‘Victor’s Delight’.
For me however, they saved the best to last with a version of Don Grolnick’s ‘Pools’. This is set up by the drums of Dan Lutz before the familiar theme is played impeccably by all.
All-in-all this is a fine album which I cannot recommend highly enough. Go out and buy it immediately. (by Alan Musson)
Brian Auger (piano)
Karma Auger (drums)
Dan Lutz (bass)
01. A Night In Tunisia (Gillespie) 5.13
02. Creepin´ (Silver) 5.55
03. For Dancers Only (Raye) 4.19
04. Little Sunflower (Hubbard) 7.15
05. It Ain’t Necessarily So (Gershwin)
06. Chelsea Bridge (Strayhorn) 5.19
07. All Blues (Davis)
08. There Is No Greater Love (Jones) 3.53
09. Victor’s Delight (Auger) 5.33
10. Pools (Grolnick) 6.15