Album Review: An Adventurous Dream


15th April 2024


My eye is watching the noon crowd,
Searching the promenade, seeking a clue,
To the one who will someday be my,
Something to live for.

The UK's top male jazz singer. A torchbearer for everything we need from a top jazz singer: wit, incredible technique and bohemian savoir faire mainly because we prefer set against other approaches the more Mark Murphy jazz side of the road derived from the enduring literary legacy of the Beats whose work Ian Shaw riffs off so well. Entering the hallowed halls of Ellingtonia, this is one of Shaw's very best records, up there with the magical Fran dancing to the music of time found on A Ghost in Every Bar and his work in New York with Cedar Walton. In his element, corresponding intimately on the stand with saxophonist Tony Kofi in very good form these last few years in a whole range of situations whether paying homage to Cannonball Adderley with Alex Webb and Andy Davies, going more celestial with Alina Bzhezhinska and kicking home hard with Sharp Little Bones, on this very fine Sweet Pea and Duke themed album.

The unrelated everGreens, Barry and Dave on piano and bass respectively, are intergenerationally ideal especially given how long the younger of the pair Barry has worked with Ian. For instance, in the same room as An Adventurous Dream was recorded, the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, Barry was excellent at a gig circa The Theory of Joy in 2016 – probably the best gig of all of Ian's we have attended down the years. Green, B's best bits are on Day Dream while bassist Dave, known for his work with Ian and Tony's labelmate Scott Hamilton, keeps stately authoritative time throughout and is just the steadying vintage beatmaker needed for the material. He also knows how to handle classic Swing Era tunes expertly.

Other highlights are when Shaw sings “Azaleas drinking pale moonbeams” the incredible line of Strayhorn lyrical poetry found on A Flower is A Lovesome Thing and makes us immediately listen for extra enjoyment to the deeper register in Murph's voice on his Links (HighNote, 2001) version.

Following swiftly on from the more 1970s-themed Shaw singersongwritery of Greek Street Friday, our vocals album of the year in 2023, here on this excellent live album certainly this latest however much it contrasts is no disappointment. The bonus factor is the live feeling you gain ably captured in the album's top of the tree sonics. And partly it's also the focus. After all, An Adventurous Dream concentrates on some of the crown jewels of a century-plus of jazz in terms of composition, repertoire and the art of the song. Kofi is best on Isfahan, and Blood Count shows the rigour of his instrumentalism and discipline of his approach most exactingly. The album title borrows from the lyric to Ellington and Strayhorn song Something To Live For introduced to the canon by Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra in 1939 and covered by many down the years including notably by Carmen McRae on a 1956 release, Nina Simone and Ella in the 1960s, the great Nat King Cole influenced easy listening singer Johnny Mathis in 1990 and the marvellous Jane Monheit in the early 21st century.

Streaming ahead of the full album release, listen to lead off track Something to Live For. Ian and Tony, Barry and Dave return to the mothership to play The Pizza Express Jazz Club to launch this fantastic album on 24 April.