Hitherto, Ian Ritchie has hidden his jazz light under a bushel of studio activity, producing, composing and doing session work for the likes of Aswad, the Beach Boys and Laurie Anderson; here, he leads a sparky but intense quartet through a selection of his own tunes, all dedicated to an area of Soho. Ritchie's themes are unfussy and immediately accessible, but come into their own as hospitable chord sequences for extended soloing both from his own tenor, a breathy, occasionally pleasantly fruity sound utilizing an emotive vibrato where needed and propelled by a sinewy energy, and from pianist Alex Hutton. The latter is a real find, capable of slow-building, intelligently worked solos that specialize in teasing rhythmic displacement and a cunning use of space, and often culminate in splashy but carefully controlled climaxes. The album's overall atmosphere is relaxed and wholly unpretentious, but the band's sound, whether spearheaded by Ritchie's engagingly bleary tenor or his more strident soprano, is confidently interactive, vigorous and punchy, propelled as it is by the unshowy but powerful rhythm section of bassist Tony Fry and drummer Vladimiro Carboni. Promising much for live performances, this is one of the most assured and listenable debut albums in recent years.
Chris Parker. ( for the Vortex jazz magazine )