The emergence of Empirical on the London jazz scene in the middle of the current decade brought with it a lot of extravagant praise of the often burdensome ‘great jazz hope’ variety.
The band have undergone major shifts in personnel since winning the EBU/European Jazz Competition at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2007, but the award-winning habit remains – drummer and co-founder Shaney Forbes recently picked up the Worshipful Company of Musicians annual award for Young Jazz Musicians.
The new line-up retains Forbes and alto saxophonist Nathanial Facey alongside Lewis Wright on vibes and Tom Farmer on bass (pianist George Fogel has also been playing with them at times). The re-vamped band recently issued their second album, Out’n’In (Naim Jazz), with Julian Siegel guesting on bass clarinet and tenor sax.
The album is a spirited tribute to Eric Dolphy, and features nine of the group’s own Dolphy-influenced originals alongside arrangements of the American saxophonist’s compositions ‘Hat & Beard’ and ‘Gazzelloni’.
The new instrumentation and Dolphy-inspired sound give the album a notably different sound to its acclaimed predecessor, but clearly suggests the band remains in rude health as a creative unit, despite key musicians like Jay Phelps and Kit Downes having moved on (as it happens, pianist Downes has his own trio album – featuring Scottish bassist Calum Gourley – due for early November release).
City Halls (Recital Room), Glasgow, Sat 14 Nov; Perth Theatre, Mon 16 Nov; Tolbooth, Stirling, Wed 18 Nov