Pigfoot: Pigfoot Shuffle – evergreen jazz music


Pigfoot’s debut album in 2014, recorded live at the Vortex Jazz Club in London, captured the band’s approach with the fitting title 21st Century Acid Trad. This album was dominated by covers of Ellington, Satchmo and Fats Waller, but added “In the Midnight Hour” and “Tennessee Waltz”. Their follow-up album ditched classical jazz and expanded the evergreen repertoire to include classical music and rock and roll.

Equally significant, the replacement of Oren Marshall’s tuba with James Allsopp’s baritone saxophone and bass clarinet changed the tonal palette. Marshall’s lower register rasp balanced out the strength of Chris Batchelor’s trumpet lead, but here the bass notes are more of a low register counterpoint than heavy backing. Batchelor’s consummate lead remains intact, as does the wide stylistic range of pianist Liam Noble and the vigorous and quirky rhythms of Paul Clarvis. And while the saxophone and clarinet may not match the tuba’s rhythmic punch, Allsopp’s flowing lines add to the quartet’s appeal and keep the fundamental band aesthetic intact.

The set opens with the unmistakable melody of “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley, here delivered by Batchelor’s gravelly cornet. Allsopp’s raspy sax swaps phrases with Batchelor’s trumpet sounds, Clarvis tears up the rhythms and the song unfolds like a hoarse burlesque. Then comes a tango, “Dance of the Seven Veils (Salome)”, performed like a ballad by Liam Noble’s delicate piano. Batchelor introduces the nervous theme of Richard Strauss in muffled and pinched tones, Allsopp intertwines with bass clarinet and the mood is sultry and sensual.

As the set continues, the quartet captures the weight of Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” with austere textures and off-putting tones. They mix crazy atonal piano with New Orleans boogie on “Jailhouse Rock”. The album’s only ballad, “The Look of Love,” comes with gravity and “For Once in My Life” earns a cheery upgrade. The album ends with a torchlight song and a waltz; “Love Letters” paired with “Song to the Evening Star” would warm the hardest hearts while Burt Bacharach’s “Wives and Lovers” waltzes into the setting sun like a gospel serenade.


‘Pigfoot Shuffle’ released by Pokey Records

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Henry R. Wright

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