Arnie Somogyi's Ambulance - Accident and Insurgency - Coda

The English quintet Ambulance, here augmented by legendary American trumpeter Eddie Henderson, features such stupendous soloists as pianist Tim Lapthorn and tenor and soprano saxophonists Paul Booth and Ron Townsend. What satisfies most, however, is the band's ensemble playing. This, one feels, is a cohesive and, a band of equals, whose mission is nothing other than to communicate their self-written material with maximum sensitivity.

The core band spent two Arts Council-funded weeks in the seaside town of Aldeburgh preparing for the album, which comprises brief free improvisations collectively titled The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Orford Ness Suite (try yelling out for that at a gig) plus compositions built around some free improvisations created in Aldeburgh.

The suite, whose four sections are interspersed between the other tracks, is atmospheric. Samples and electronics evoke Aldeburgh and its characters. Mick the Fish, for example, was inspired by the bloke from whom the band bought cod and the track features samples of his voice and of the sea.

Amongst the composed tracks are Lapthorn's beautiful ballad Tumbledown, featuring a wonderfully poised and tender solo from Henderson, and Somogyi's slightly comic-sounding Captain Courageous on which the band negotiates innumerable time changes with aplomb. Throughout the lyrical, elegantly played music is consistently engaging.

14 July 2008