Big Picture, His Mistress Never Sleeps..., Laurence M. Svirchev, Planet Jazz, Vol.4, Spring/Summer 2000


Jazz is a music known for creativity, so what virtue is there in sounding like someone else? On these CD's Vancouver guitarist Ken Aldcroft has forged a consistently interesting music out of a lean grouping of guitar-drums-trombone, adding saxophone for the CD of Ellington compositions.

On the trio album, Spiritual is an example of how a simple arrangement can be extraordinarily musical. The composition is based on a repeating rhythmic line that plays throughout the entire eleven-and-a-half-minute take. This line is mainly played by the guitar, both the drums and trombone also play it. Initially, the counterpoint to the rhythm is played by trombonist Brian Harding, who then goes on to solo. Then Aldcroft solos, with Harding playing the rhythm. One might wonder when the rhythm vamp will change, but it is always there and eventually becomes a mantra accepted by the ears. Just as a spiritual should be.

The CD of Ellington compositions has its own charms, the first of which is a beautiful Aldcroft original, Evening Peace. The repertoire compositions are performed with both fidelity to and broad interpretation of Ellington's compositions. On Bluebird of Delhi the pace is somewhat slower than Ellington's until the bridge. Then Graham Ord, playing soprano saxophone (rather than Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet), speeds the piece up with a distinctly contemporary sound that puts the mynah into flight.