The Jazz Defenders: Memory in Motion review – crackles with energy and skill

<span>‘The joy that live music can bring’: the Jazz Defenders.</span><span>Photograph: Simon Holliday</span>
‘The joy that live music can bring’: the Jazz Defenders.Photograph: Simon Holliday

This Bristol quintet are champions – or “defenders” – of the hard bop heritage of greats such as Horace Silver and Art Blakey, players who shaped the golden age of Blue Note records back in the 1950s and 60s. They are not, however, mere nostalgists – their material is original and varied. Their third album crackles with energy and glistens with skill. At its heart is much-travelled keyboard player George Cooper, who produces and composes most of their material. Opener Meanderthal sets the template: funky rhythms and a joint sax and trumpet motif followed by solos that are never indulgent.

Driven along by Kasabian drummer Ian Matthews, the tempo tends to be high – Snakebite Playfight is a high-wire act, a piece of sinuous ensemble playing – but there are moodier moments such as Take a Minute, with Cooper on vibraphone, and an engaging rap outing by Doc Brown, Rolling on a High, redolent of Guru’s Jazzmatazz. The liner note writes of “the joy that live music can bring”, and the album closes with a contemplative seven-minute duet between piano and bass recorded last year, a contrast to everything that’s gone before. A class act.