15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2006
Apparently "Once Upon A Time" has been one of the most popular in the recent wave of Brit-Jazz reissues. It's easy to see why - it's a gem. Skidmore's debut was originally released on Decca / Deram in 1970 & the all-star quintet is: Skidmore- tenor sax; Kenny Wheeler-flugelhorn; John Taylor-piano; Harry Miller-bass; Tony Oxley-drums. The Surman-composed title track is a slow-burning swirling opener, the stark horn-based Majaera is an Oxley composition & as might be expected drifts into free improv territory (similar to version on Oxley's own "4 Compositions" Columbia album). The Yolk is a freewheeling Coltrane-style piece (composed by Taylor). Perhaps the most interesting track is the 12 minute Old San Juan composed by John Warren, which goes through a number of unexpected but stately & beautifully arranged sections. The album ends with Free For Al / Image: a good old modern jazz freak out with obligatory brooding after-the-storm Trane-style resolution. Of course, as composer & player, Skidmore is strongly influenced by Coltrane, but the Quintet on this album definitely had their own sensibility - this is not derivative second-hand imitation but taking things in an interesting & thoroughly accomplished direction. Another excellent Vocalian reissue, with original sleeve & liner notes.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2014
A very good disc, well worth reissuing. It dates from 1970 and is by a band, the members of which later achieved a certain amount of fame although they weren't all particularly well known at the time. Skidmore, the leader, is a fairly aggressive Coltrane influenced tenor with a thick, slightly chewy tone. At first hearing he doesn't strike you as a particularly melodic player but he is capable of playing some attractive lines in addition to the tough stuff. Both his associates in the front line, Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn and John Taylor on piano, are attractive melodists, and one of the attractions of the disc is the contrasting styles of the three front line men, who still manage to cohere very successfully. Wheeler is quite uncanny, a mixture of stark lines and bewitching melody, floating on top of sometimes aggressive rhythm, as if he was part of the band but at the same time not. Taylor, influenced by Bill Evans, but well on the way to developing an original style, plays delicate lines but with plenty of substance. Unlike Evans, he was never ponderous. Both Wheeler and Taylor became major players on the international scene, and this disc is a good early example of their quality.
Harry Miller and Tony Oxley make an flexible and supportive rhythm section. Oxley, in particular, had not yet moved into free jazz and indulges in some vigorous drumming a la Elvin Jones or Tony Williams.
It's a nicely varied programme. 'Once Upon A Time' is an attractive waltz where all three main soloists play some appealing lines, 'Majaera' is a composition by Tony Oxley described in the sleeve note as 'a jagged study in discord' and 'The Yolk' a fast aggressive piece. 'Old San Juan' is a lengthy composition with changes in tempo for each solo and ending in an explosive drum solo, which leads into 'Free For Al', featuring tenor and drums in a free setting. This in turn leads into 'Image', in which the music is drawn to a quiet conclusion.