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On the Up and Up by The Osian Roberts/Steve Fishwick Quintet

On the Up and Up, the second CD from this talented British group, is made up of a pleasing mixture of bop, blues and ballads, spiced with a couple surprises.

This quintet has been together since 2001, and this shows in the cohesive arrangements of the eight tunes, five of which are originals by the leaders. On trumpet, co-leader Steve Fishwick shows why he has been called one of the UK’s best. On tenor sax, his partner, Roberts also excels. Rounding out the group, is the very capable rhythm section of Olivier Slama, piano, Dave Chamberlain, bass, and Matt Fishwick and Matt Home, sharing time on drums.

Horace Silver has been a big influence on the group’s style. This can be heard from the get-go on Fishwick’s two up-tempo tunes, "The Hit" and "A Pocketful of Grease." On the latter, a funky blues a la Silver, Roberts gutsy sax, Slama’s steady piano-comping and Home’s infectious drum beat stand out. On the former, the horn’s unison boppish lead-in leads to Fishwick’s punchy trumpet solo, followed by Roberts strong tenor statement.

On the mellow side, "I Loves You Porgy" is a Showcase for Fishwick’s plaintive fluegelhorn solo, setting the tone for Robert's seamless entrance in the same melancholy vein. They do Gershwin’s ballad proud. It’s back to bop in Roberts’ explosive "Hand Grenade," with rapid-fire solos by both horns, complemented by highly-charged turns by pianist Slama and drummer Fishwick.

It’s always a nice surprise when the listener comes across a catchy, seldom-heard tune. In this case it is veteran saxophonist Harold Ousley’s "Now That I Am So in Love." Here it is given a piano trio treatment, Slama buoying the lilting melody with his light touch and tasty filigrees, filled in by Home’s subtle brush work.

Another pleasant surprise is the appearance of Stephen Foster’s 1850s American ballad "Swanee River." In the band’s clever arrangement, it starts as a mournful dirge until Fishwick breaks in with some low-down, funky improvisation, followed, once again, by Roberts’ assertive tenor. Finally, Slama takes it back to church with his gospel sermonette.

This CD leaves the listener eagerly awaiting the release of the quintet's new CD, featuring guest appearances by legendary pianist Cedar Walton and new star Peter Washington on bass.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: The Osian Roberts/Steve Fishwick Quintet
  • CD Title: On the Up and Up
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Hard Bop Records
  • Tracks: The Hit, I Loves You Porgy, Hand Grenade, A Pocketful of Grease, The Road to Philly, Now That I Am So In Love, The Knife, Swanee River
  • Musicians: Osian Roberts (tenor sax), Steve Fishwick (trumpet), Olivier Slama (piano), Matt Fishwick (drums), Matt Home, (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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