The work of a jazz guitarist often flies beneath the radar. As a genre, jazz is dominated by vocalists, brass players or rhythm players who opt for the drums, bass or piano to stamp their authority on musical proceedings, so it’s a nice change to hear something where the music is centred around the humble six-string.
Chris Cobbson is of Ghanaian heritage and his guitar playing and rhythmic choices reflect this with a mixture of African patterns and Grant Green-esque jazz styling. All in all the music is cleverly arranged with the guitar being central but not by any means dominant, there is room for the clever percussion and space for the music to breathe.
The music plays out like a collection of postcards from different musical styles. We start with ‘Enchanted’ which plays out with a groove suiting a laid-back summery feel before we step into more familiar African-flavoured party ‘Sempe’ and then we hot-foot to South America for ‘Look at me Now’ and into reggae territory for ‘Lovers Rock’. It’s little surprise that Cobbson has chosen to encompass so many influences, he’s been the go-to guitarist in the UK for a while now and his resume reads like a who’s who of British jazz.
It’s a compliment to say that even though lots of genres are covered, they sound connected and, under the musicianship of Cobbson, it never sounds as if it’s unnatural. This is a love letter to the music, an appreciation of the styles.
There is a brave move on track five when the band tackle ‘My Favourite Things’. For fans of jazz, this song will forever be connected to the great John Coltrane but if there was a temptation to imitate or copy the great saxophonist, it was correctly ignored, and the end result is a samba-fused vibe that plays out beautifully.
My pick of the tracks has to be ‘A Time to Reflect, A Time to Forget’ which is dedicated to Desmond Tutu, the rhythm is spot on here with tasteful guitar and organ underpinning the clap-along beat before a neat guitar comes in.