27/8/19 The Allan McKeown Quartet – “PJ’s Donut Club”

Allan McKeown (g), Paul Harrison (org), Stuart Brown (d), Steve Foreman (per). Rec. 2017 (PIN records)

This has to be the perfect jazz album for a 1960s – themed party. Lovely arrangements of Standards and other well-kent tunes, played impeccably – what’s not to like?!

Inspired to make this album by the classic soul-jazz organ groups of the 60s – Dr Lonnie Smith and Brother Jack McDuff spring to the mind of this not particularly well-informed writer – guitarist Allan McKeown is known in Scotland for his long-standing involvement in evolved pop band Hue and Cry, as guitarist in festival-pleaser Rapido Mariachi and also in full-throttle funk band The Dt6 (listen to their superb instrumental ‘Don’t Doubt Me’ on Youtube).

Indeed, the interestingly monikered PJ’s Donut Club brings all these elements together then moves deeper into the jazz zone. On Hammond C3 organ Paul Harrison delivers his usual immaculate performance, whist righteous drummer Stuart Brown, similarly omnipresent on the Scottish jazz scene, supports the deep swing and propulsion equally.

The fifth member of the band is US star, composer and percussionist Steve Forman. His heft completes a rock-solid team, who despite having taken a mere afternoon to record the whole album, don’t put a foot wrong. Nowadays teaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, veteran Forman has written soundtracks for major films such as ET and Star Trek and percussed with everyone from Pink Floyd and David Bowie to Stan Getz and Sarah Vaughan.

The seven-track album opens with Stevie Wonder’s 1969 ‘My Cherie Amour’, with some crisp and lovely soloing from McKeown, complemented by Harrison’s delightful Hammond organ including a charming pattering coda. This is followed by the R & B-style title track, thereafter a swoonsomely swinging version of Cole Porter’s 1930 ‘Love For Sale’. Both tunes showcase McKeown’s attractive, extremely clear guitar style, heard beautifully too on ‘Rue Ste Catherine’.

McKeown’s Mexican leanings are evidenced by the hugely swinging, percussion jam – packed ‘The Hip Hat Dance Of Mexico’, whilst next track, Consuelo Velazquez’ gorgeous song ‘Besame Mucho’ is beautifully done. The final tune, Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ is especially successful in showcasing Brown and Forman’s masterful and highly compatible percussion.

This highly-polished, modern take on 1960s soul-jazz is sure to trigger memories for those of us of a certain age, but may also find favour with a wider demographic, given the present widespread up-swell in nostalgia. It most certainly is the sleekest 60s – style soul-jazz this listener has come across in a long time. Released just last month it is available on all major streaming platforms and on vinyl.

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