Not a precious second wasted in 38 brilliant minutes. They really don’t make ‘em...
Nick Reynolds 2007
Pianist and composer Stan Tracey is a legendary veteran on the British jazz scene, in his own quiet way, a master musician. Alice In Jazz Land originally released in 1966 is the follow up to Tracey’s Under Milk Wood album, one of the best known British jazz albums. It’s criminal that Alice… has been unavailable for so long: it’s a great record.
A crack team of legendary British players was put together for this session. But Stan himself sets the tone in the first thirty seconds of the title cut with an aggressive, audacious piano intro that makes you sit up and go ‘Wow!’. This is an album that exemplifies the classic British big band sound: tart, bright, punchy. But it also pushes the envelope way out with its’ confidence and wild musical invention. It’s full of fantastic loud, huge, wide chords that are big enough to stick your whole head in.
This album is a much a product of its time as the Beatles' Revolver, and it’s no coincidence that it was also recorded at Abbey Road (and beautifully recorded at that). British music and culture was at a zenith, and you can hear the sunshine and swagger in the likes of “Pig And Pepper” and “Summer Hallucinations”. “Afro Charlie Meets The White Rabbit” has a psychedelic edge with outrageous discords and an off the wall arrangement which never meanders or loses focus. The lovely “Fantasies In Bloom”, provides some breathing space. It seems dangerous to single out one player but I particularly love the trumpet section and Kenny Baker’s trumpet feature on the intense “Murdering The Time”.
Right up to the glorious conclusion of “Portrait of A Queen” there’s not a precious second wasted in 38 brilliant minutes. They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Thankfully you can hear ‘em again, thanks to Clark Tracey and his programme of reissues of his father’s music: truly a labour of love in a very bad world.