Reviews Zone

The Jazz Defenders: Scheming (Haggis Records) Out now




5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)




The Jazz Defenders. “Scheming” So what have we got here then? A British jazz album that sounds like it could be a long lost treasure dug up from the vaults from one of several long-gone US jazz icons.

But it is in fact, a Bristol-based band of crack session players making a damn great noise.

I give you, The Jazz Defenders and their delicious debut offering, “Scheming”. Not one duffer among the 10 cuts here.

We’ve got Nick Malcolm on trumpet, Nicholas Dover on saxophone, George Cooper on piano, Wurlitzer, organ and percussion, Will Harris on double and electric bass and Matt Brown on drums.

Produced by George Cooper, engineered by Owain Fleetwood Jenkins and released on the label started by the famed Haggis Horns.

“Scheming” deserves to be heard far and wide. Uber-cool song writing craftsmanship from George Cooper and his fellow band member co-writers – one of those times when a brand new song triggers that little light bulb in your head that goes off with a flash, that says: “Oh, I know this one…” But you don’t.

Nodding to some of the jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock, Lee Morgan, Dave Brubeck, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Hank Mobley as inspirations.

But while respectful homage is paid not only to the legendary Blue Note label and some of its greatest artists, “Scheming” is very much in its own lane at the same time. A breath of fresh air on the British jazz scene. My bet is the trendy New York and L.A. jazz clubs would lap this stuff up and beg for more.

This gives a modern, soulful angle to classic be-bop and hard bop, evoking memories of some Blue Note’s best output. There’s some great hooks across this set, especially the horn lines.

The Jazz Defenders’ founder George Cooper is a formidable musician with a solid reputation, mixing it with some big names who have called upon his skills, such as U2, Hans Zimmer and Nigel Kennedy. George still in his very early 30s.

The band was formed in 2015, honing their chops on stage before committing to tape this beautiful debut album. Love the fact this is all original material written by the band, and has a real hallmark of quality that stands up against almost any classic jazz track, for me.

Opener “Top Down Tourism”, George co-penned with Nicholas Dover, and kicks things off in style. One of those tracks that says, “Stop what you are doing, chill out and let this beauty wash over you. Sod the emails and the texts. Get a load of this!” A load of this I did get, and glad am I that I did get it!

“Everybody’s Got Something”, swings like heck, with interplay between horn and sax’. Three in, the title track swaps the ivories for swirling organ. They nail the groove with “Late” where bass, horns and piano lock together tightly.

Closer “Brown Down” is one of the real standouts of the set – written by George and Matt Brown. Nicholas Dover’s sultry and sweet sax’ solo sends shivers down the spine. George gets down and funky on leccie piano. (They deserve the maximum five stars which I give this record, just for this one track alone).

Tremendous flair, vibrancy, energy, spirituality, chemistry and passion seeps out of this recording. As sincere as it comes. One of the very best UK jazz records I have come across in recent years. More please….


By Simon Redley



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