more CD Reviews
Three Little Words - Benny Golson
Suspensions and Anticipations - Stan Tracey & Evan Parker
The Last Time I Saw You - Stan Tracey & Pete King
Khumbula (Remember) - Stan Tracey & Louis Moholo-Moholo
Under Milk Wood - Stan Tracey Quartet with Phillip Madoc
Solo:Trio - Stan Tracey, Clark Tracey & Andy Cleyndert
With Love from Jazz - Stan Tracey Quartet
Laughin' & Scratchin' - Stan Tracey Trio

Stan Tracey Quartet - The Flying Pig Sept 2013. Stan Tracey Quintet - The Flying Pig

The inspiration for this album came after a visit with Clark and grandson Ben to the WW1 battlefields of Loos (pronounced 'loss') in northern France, where my father (Stanley Clark Tracey) was wounded and captured in 1915 aged 18."
Stan Tracey

review by Richard Williams. the blue

In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row, / That mark our place; and in the sky / The larks, still bravely singing, fly / Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Those lines, the opening of the much loved poem written in 1915 by John McCrae, a Canadian soldier and physician who had fought in the Second Battle of Ypres, came to mind while I was listening to The Flying Pig, Stan Tracey's new album. Those who know about such things will recognise Tracey's chosen title as an allusion to a particular type of gun used by British forces during the Great War. Indeed the titles of all the six original compositions on the CD, played by the pianist's current quintet, make such references, either to wartime weapons or places or soldiers' sayings. The inspiration is the experience of Stan's father, who served in the East Kent Regiment and, still only 18, was wounded on a Flanders battlefield in the year McCrae wrote the poem (he survived capture and imprisonment by the enemy and died in 1957, aged 60). more/less

For those uncertain about the most suitable way to acknowledge next year's centenary of the start of the war to end all wars, and perhaps ambivalent about the British government's apparent determination to turn the event into a great patriotic celebration, here's a solution: buy a poppy, by all means, but also spend some time listening to The Flying Pig.

There is nothing programmatic, overtly descriptive or propagandist about the music. This is not a jazz version of Joan Littlewood's Oh! What a Lovely War, but simply a very fine contemporary version of the sort of post-bop jazz associated with the Jazz Messengers and the Horace Silver Quintet in the late 1950s and early 1960s. There are no pretensions, no extraneous flourishes: just music of real substance, played by Tracey with his son Clark on drums, Andy Cleyndert on bass, Mark Armstrong on trumpet and flugelhorn and Simon Allen on saxophones.

Given that the two Traceys and Cleyndert have formed a regular trio for several years, it's not unexpected to find that the rhythm section runs on well lubricated ball-bearings. The surprise for me is Armstrong, whose solos evoke the best work of the young Freddie Hubbard, characterised by a gloriously burnished tone and a relaxed intensity but without Hubbard's occasional tendency to get hung up on repeated phrases. He and Allen (whose alto saxophone solos are particularly enjoyable) combine to create the kind of lean front-line blend that is ideal for this material.

One of the pieces is called "Ballad for Loos": a reference to the particular battlefield in northern France where Stan's father was wounded. That's the location of the photograph above, which shows Stan (centre) and Clark (right) with Ben Tracey, Stan's grandson. (A couple of years ago Ben contributed the narration to an album of Stan's inspired by and titled after Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales.)

In an interview with Alyn Shipton in the latest issue of Jazzwise, Stan says that nowadays he prefers working with the trio or his quartet; those line-ups, he says, offer him more space to play. But no sense of restraint or restriction afflicts The Flying Pig, which is released on the pianist's own Resteamed label and surely deserves a place among the most satisfying products of a recording career that is now in its seventh decade. At 86, Stan is three years older than Ahmad Jamal, whose longevity is held to be a thing of wonder; just listen to the long piano solos on the title track or "Silent Percy", as full of character, wisdom and sharply focused energy as ever.

Stan Tracey Quartet - Senior Moment
Tim Stenhouse
Stan Tracey returns with one of his freshest sounding recordings in years and at least one of the reasons for this seems to be the new musical collaboration with young and upcoming talent in saxophonist Simon Allen alongside long-term band members Andrew Cleyndert and drummer Clark Tracey. The elder Tracey has enjoyed special musical relationships with some of the all-time greats...more/less
of the saxophone, most notably Sonny Rollins and Roland Kirk during their residency at Ronnie Scott's, and this new recording recalls in part both the intimacy of the small group albums of Johnny Hodges and Ben Wesbster with Duke Ellington, and even the Duke with John Coltrane on their sole collaboration.
For this latest album Tracey has revisited some of his vast back catalogue of his compositions and, in addition, offering an excellent new suite, 'The Grandad Suite', devoted unsurprisingly to his own grandchildren. Coltrane and Ellington are indeed conjured up with the reflective 'Dream of my colours' featuring beautiful soprano saxophone from Allen while in contrast 'Duffy's Circus' is an uptempo bop number in which Stan Tracey stretches out and Allen delivers a fiery solo on alto. There is an obvious nod to Thelonius Monk on the be-bop number 'Afro-Charlie meets the white rabbit'. However, of the non-suite pieces, the tour de force is unquestionably the calypso driven 'Triple celebration' where the tenor of Simon Allen hints at late-fifties Sonny Rollins and the overall feel is one that Dollar Brand would be at home with. The lengthy four piece suite impresses greatly with the lyrical first piece, 'Benology' the stand out track once again featuring the soprano saxophone of Allen and one of the album's most melodic pieces wheareas the fourth part, 'Zach's dream' is a blues-inflected number that is the ideal vehicle for Stan Tracey to solo at length. As ever immaculate accompanying from Andrew Cleyndert and Clark Tracey respectively. This is one of Stan Tracey's most enjoyable albums in several years and a very fitting tribute to his sadly deceased wife Jackie.

Tony Hall. Jazzwise Dec/Jan issue.
This is the first new Stan Tracey recording I've heard in ages and deserves to be hailed as on of his best. The band is so relaxed. Sounds just as though they were on a gig. Quite a few first takes? Stan really is a national treasure. In his 80's, he's playing better than ever...more/less
Maybe the choice of notes and chords are more mellow than dissonant these days. But everything sounds so right, especially in his comping. Clark and Cleyndert have played together so often with Stan, they seem of one mind and also make the most of the many solo spots they're given. Their swing is constant and uncontrived. Simon Allen is excellent, too. He has all the technical proficiency of his American counterparts, but sounds so much more human and emotional than most. He's equally strong on all his horns, with his alto particularly impressive. All four sound as thought they thoroughly enjoyed themselves on the session. The titles include reworkings of some earlier Tracey tunes, plus a couple of previously unrecorded 'Grandad Suite' segments. Best for me include 'Afro Charlie Meets the White Rabbit', 'Duffy's Circus', 'Dream of Many Colours', 'Stemless' and 'Zach's Dream'.
Stan dedicates the record to wife Jackie, who recently passed away. A contemporary of mine long ago at Decca, she started as switchboard operator (with Sir Edward Lewis among her fans), progressed to promotion, then shortly after producing his classic 'Lil Klunk' for Tempo, left to manage Stan. Always feisty, to put it mildly, she gave up everything for Stan and will be missed.

Ray Comisky, Irish Times Oct. 2009
Along with Andy Cleyndert (bass), Clark Tracey (drums) and Simon Allen (alto/soprano/tenor), Stan Tracey revisits some of his old originals for an album as fresh and enjoyable as anything he’s ever done. The relative newcomer is Allen, a formidable talent with wide experience at the top table and the ability to burrow into a piece, take on its colours, produce exhilarating solos and quit with plenty of gas left in the tank...more/less
It’s a serendipitous gift, since Tracey’s pieces, though rooted in the old song form structure and the blues, have a distinctive character to flavour Allen’s hard bop approach. The seasoned rhythm section is superb and Tracey’s piano a constant joy, while the quartet brings a palpable assurance to its work, notably on Duffy’s Circus, Rocky Mount, Stemless and the delightfully eccentric Afro-Charlie Meets the White Rabbit . No senior moments here.

Peter Bacon,, October 09
Disc of the day -
It’s a catchy, Caribbean-tinged, joyful tune that could have been written by Sonny Rollins, and the saxophonist is doing nothing to dispell that thought. The pianist launches into a solo of exuberant high and low end keyboard conversation, before the saxophonist returns to work a sure-footed and nearly manic display of melodic happiness. Meanwhile the rhythm team buoys them all along, the bass solo takes the theme of enjoyment on and the drummer carries it through. And then it’s back to the head. The whole thing seems to be over in less than a minute, though it has lasted more than five. That’s what happens to time when you are having fun. more/less
The tune is Triple Celebration, and Simon Allen is on saxophone, Andy Cleyndert on bass and Clark Tracey on drums. And, of course, this whole widely beaming, overflowing with joy and good vibes thing is masterminded by our favourite grump, Stan Tracey, on piano...
Stan’s always played a strong card in irony and deadpan, of course – and the title is a classic case in point. In a blindfold “guess the ages of the band members” test the number 80 would have no chance of being mentioned, yet this adventurous, spirited, robust and superbly executed album is the latest from the supreme grandaddy of British jazz. Some of those half his age should be ashamed! Senior Moment is made up of new versions of tunes from his vast library – Duffy’s Circus, Stemless, Dream of Many Colours, etc – but making up the second half is the four-section The Grandad Suite of recently written pieces inspired by his grandchildren.
Of course, we know of Stan’s exemplary taste in musicians, but a special word for Simon Allen is in order. We may be familiar with his playing from a longish stint in Clark Tracey’s band, and with the BBC, Laurence Cottle and Matthew Herbert big bands, but he really gets to shine at length here, and, on whichever saxophone he chooses, he is superb: articulate, impassioned, big and bold or more delicate of tone as the music dictates, and always matching head and heart in perfect balance. You feel like every note is considered and every note is heartfelt; he doesn’t let his concentration stray for an instant, neither does he let in any cliches.
All in all, a storming set.

Ben Webster / Stan Tracey  - Soho Nights This month celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of jazz's titans: Ben Webster. His career spanned over 40 years, from being a journeyman in the Ellington orchestra to becoming one of that group's biggest stars and subsequently emerging as one of the most iconic figures of the tenor sax.
On the heels of 2008's Dig Ben, Storyville's mammoth, eight-disc box set chronicling Webster's European years, British label Resteamed is rolling out a series of previously unissued club dates that team the tenor legend with British pianist Stan Tracey. The first volume presents a high-quality recording of the set performed at the Ronnie Scott's famed London jazz club in January 1968, right smack in the middle of Webster's permanent European sojourn that lasted from 1965 until he died in Amsterdam in 1973.
Along with Dave Green (bass) and Tony Crombie (drums), the combination of Webster and Tracey results in a wonderful hour of music, especially where ballads (Webster's known specialty) are concerned. Anyone familiar with Webster's European recordings knows full well that his abilities hardly regressed with age. In fact he always remained the King of the Ballad and it's more than apparent on this disc with his work on "Londonderry Air" and "Come Sunday."
Tracey's accompaniment and soloing definitely measures up to the work of the leader. As the liner notes suggest, it's true that Webster tended to favor ballads and medium-tempo swingers over hot and heavy scorchers as one might have heard him play as a member of the Ellington squad. This might be true, for the most part, but the sax man definitely proves he still had his up-tempo chops in a relatively fast and furious version of "Sunday." This set does, however, present Webster at his swinging and easy-going best and is essential for Webster completists.

Graham L. Flanagan, All About Jazz
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Stan Tracey / Keith Tippett - Supernova Anyone who heard Stan Tracey's improvised duet with fellow-pianist Keith Tippett at the Barbican in January will want this historic and previously unreleased set captured at London's ICA in 1977. The two pianists represent a fascinating contrast. Tippett likes Cecil Taylorish abstractions or contemporary-classical devices, and Tracey a mixture of gallumphing jazzy runs and quirky lyricism, but as the improvisations develop both of them forget the luggage they carry, and entwine with uncanny understanding. Often they thunder together, unleashing unbroken drones like a cello and bass section, but then they stop on a dime, as if the payoff was telepathically obvious. 'Parallax' features a cat-and-mouse game of feints and weaves, there are hints at the blues, and the title track reveals how many approaches there are to that mystifying notion of 'swing'. The Tracey/Tippett reunion has become a highlight of 2008 live jazz already, here's one of the story's compelling early chapters.
John Fordham, Jazz UK 2008
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Tracey/Wellins - Play Monk Stan Tracey Orchestra - Live At The Appleby Jazz Festival
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Tracey/Wellins 'Play Monk'
Modern jazz has been built on the innovations and sheer individualism of musicians such as Thelonius Monk and so it is of little surprise that other jazz artists should wish to pay tribute to him, with Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band's 'Rumba para Monk' being an outstanding example. While a plethora of these exist, 'Play Monk' has the considerable merit of playing Monk's compositions on the quartet's own terms and sounds all the better for it. Throughout there is a timeless feel to this live session, recorded at the Bull's Head in Barnes. What impresses most is the space afforded between notes by the trio with Wellins able to effortlessly join in at the appropriate moment. This is clearly a band at ease with itself and enjoying each other's company. Of all the compositions 'Blues Bolivar' is most Monk-like in execution with Wellins providing a glorious direct solo that is reminiscent of late 1950s Sonny Rollins. On 'Well you needn't' the rhythm section bubbles under the surface, with Clark Tracey particularly inventive on drums, and Stan partakes in long modal runs, stretching the notes to their fullest. The sheer lyricism of Bobby Wellins come to the fore on 'I mean you' and both Tracey and Wellins duet to good effect on Monk's Mood', while Tracey solos on a mournful version of 'Round Midnight'. The sound quality for a live recording is exceptionally good and the audience not in the least bit intrusive. Monk would have approved of this hommage.
Tim Stenhouse
UK Vibe/ Jazz culture online

Stan Tracey Orchestra at Appleby Jazz Festival (ReSteamed RSJ103)
Stan and Bobby recently repeated their Monk programme at Appleby, where these big band sessions were also recorded in 2004 and 2006. I was there to hear some superb music played by bands stuffed with the very best of today's British musicians, including Peter King, Alan Barnes, Evan Parker, Guy Barker and Mark Nightingale.
Recording quality is vivid and atmospheric and the music is absolutely glorious.
Peter Bevan
The Northern Echo

see also : Reviews from Solo to Big Band

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