Lyn's Une - Alyn Cosker - thejazzmann.com
I first encountered the powerful drumming of Alyn Cosker at Brecon Jazz Festival when the young Scotsman formed part of a dynamic quartet led by his compatriot the alto saxophonist Paul Towndrow. That was back in 2004 and Cosker's reputation has grown hugely since then seeing him work with a string of famous names including American vibraphonist Joe Locke and tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith, godfather of the burgeoning Scottish scene. Cosker's versatility has also seen him working in the rock and pop fields most notably with the Mercury Music Prize nominees Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan.
A music graduate from the University Of Strathclyde Cosker is also an aspiring composer. His versatility and wide ranging tastes come across on this mainly self penned album featuring a stellar, mainly Scottish line-up. Smith (tenor) and Towndrow (alto/soprano) are both present together with long time colleague Ross Hamilton (bass), David Dunsmuir (guitar), Ryan Quigley (trumpet) and special guest Jason Rebello on piano. Vocalist Maureen McMullan appears on the closing "When Autumn Comes", a tune largely written by the singer.
The album opens with the tricky, rhythmically complex "Oh Dear" which features guitarist Dunsmuir both as a soloist and as a sparring partner for the horns. The one time rock player delivers a fiery solo here, influenced in part by the great John Schofield. He's more than matched by some scorching tenor work from Smith.
"Logan's Slogans", dedicated to Cosker's old music teacher back in Ayr is gritty funk inspired by groovemeisters such as The Meters and drummer Chris "Daddy" Dave. Dunsmuir and Smith contribute powerful solos and there are features for Hamilton on agile electric bass and for the leader's drums in a series of breaks.
"Don't Forget Me" shows the softer side of Cosker's writing, a gentle ballad that allows his soloists (Smith, Dunsmuir, Hamilton) to demonstrate their lyrical qualities.
McMullan's brief wordless vocal introduces "Smiling Down" a dedication to Cosker's late nephew.
It's elegiac, song like and ultimately uplifting with tasteful solos from Smith, Towndrow, Dunsmuir and Hamilton on liquid electric bass.
"That's The Ticket" is a funk excursion for the power trio of Cosker, Dunsmuir and Hamilton, full of powerful grooves and unexpected twists and turns. It's impressive, invigorating stuff driven by the leader's punchy drumming.
The title "Lyn's Une" derives from a misspelling of "Alyn's Tune" and lowers the temperature again. Rebello's flowing piano and Towndrow's lyrical soprano bring out the best of one of Cosker's most winning melodies.
"Twitter And Bisted" features the seven piece in it's entirety and acts as the vehicle for some sparkling unison horn passages and some glorious soloing from all the horns (Quigley's flaring trumpet is a welcome extra voice) plus the exuberant Rebello with Cosker providing indefatigable propulsion. Could the title have been inspired by another of Scotland's finest exports Harviestoun Brewery's Bitter and Twisted?
"Bheki" is a dedication to the late Mr. Mseleku and features further solo contributions from the excellent Quigley and Rebello plus a major statement from the imperious Smith.
The ballad "Unannounced" is one of Cosker's most beautiful tunes and one which serves demonstrate the sensitive side of his own playing Rebello's deliciously lyrical playing and Dunsmuir's guitar atmospherics help to make this one of the album's stand out cuts.
"Straight Through Boogaloo" marks a return to the guitar/bass/drums trio format and is full of odd meters and jazzy bebop style guitar runs. It's tricky and intricate but sounds like great fun to play.
The song "When Autumn Comes" closes the album with the melody and words written and beautifully sung by Maureen McMullan. It's not really a jazz number but it's a classy piece of work that rounds the album off very nicely.
"Lyn's Une" is a sprawling, ambitious album that touches all Cosker's bases. At seventy eight minutes it's rather too long (as are some of the individual tracks) and the listener's attention is apt to wander at times. Nevertheless there are some great moments here and the standard of playing, as one would expect from musicians of this calibre is exemplary. Smith and Rebello are customarily excellent and Dunsmuir is a real discovery.
"Lyn's Une" is a thoroughly respectable début. Cosker displays formidable technique as a player and considerable potential as a writer. He can't really be blamed for trying to cram as many ideas as possible on to his first recording as a leader and subsequent albums will hopefully less rambling and more focussed. In the meantime a player of Cosker's prodigious talents is hardly likely to be short of work.