Alex Western-King, Sideslip Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Alex Western-King is releasing his debut album on Ubuntu Music label called Sideslip. The London-based saxophonist is joined by Sam Leak on piano, Jonny Wickham on bass, Jay Davis on drums, and James Copus on trumpet. Western-King describes the album, “This album is a meeting point between my love of straight-ahead bebop and the chaos and fragility of free jazz. For my debut album, I feel very lucky to be working with musicians that are among the very best on the scene, and more importantly, are people with whom I have a close personal connection. The chemistry that myself, Sam Leak, Jonny Wickham, and Jay Davis have formed over our years of playing together allows us to constantly push creative boundaries within our improvisation.”
“Disorder Reordered” is a Western-King composition that features the ensemble balancing modern jazz and straight-ahead jazz to create a moving musical experience. With a hard-bop-inspired melody that has band accents, the opening theme is followed by Davis taking a drum solo with Wickham playing an accompanying line that transitions to Leak playing an ostinato figure for the drum accompaniment. Leak’s solo has a robust motivic development and interesting harmonic and melodic colors. Next, Western-King joins for a short, interactive section before the cadence. Overall, this song shows the strong chemistry the ensemble has.
“SlideSlip” builds upon an intense melody with trumpeter James Copus joining Western-King. The band settles down to a deep swing feel for the solo section. Copus’s solo is first with a focus on melodic lines that are interactive with Leak’s voicings. Western-King joins Copus at the end of his solo for a moment of combined interaction, a creative passing of the solo baton. Western-King’s solo is expressed over the horn’s entire range as he darts through the harmonic landscape with skill and power.
Sideslip is a delightfully structured debut album from Western-King. The melodies are exciting and feature creative band interaction and transitions between sections and soloists. These evocative compositions give the band a structure that allows them to settle into deep listening and interaction with one another. Western-King displays energetic creativity and willingness to explore the boundaries of the modern jazz sounds of today while maintaining firm sonics from the past.