Malcolm Strachan, the trumpeter for The Haggis Horns, released his second “solo” album this year, Point of No Return. Although it’s a solo album, the core band on “Point Of No Return” are musicians that Malcolm has known and worked with for over two decades, often in The Haggis Horns, and most appeared on the debut album. Newcomers this time are longtime Haggis Horns guest percussionist Sam Bell plus special guest vocalist UK jazz singer Jo Harrop, who adds non-verbal Flora Purim style vocals on tracks one and three.
I covered hisdebut album About Time back in 2020 so I was keen to dig in on this one and it definitely is a great soph release with styles ranging from modal jazz grooves to Brazilian samba beats, Latin rhythms to cinematic soundtrack vibes, and along the way, some beautiful ballads. Here’s my take on this fine collection, track-by-track.
Nossa Dança translates to “Our Dance” from Portuguese and it’s a natural fit. This samba beat feels like a classic with a pulsing horn intro of the main theme. Malcolm takes a clear as a bell solo that yields to George Cooper (Haggis Horns) dancing along on piano. The main theme with full horn chorus plays through the end accompanied in a beautiful and subtle way by Jo Harrop with vocalese.
Soul Trip is another Latin-tinged tune with some great groove laid down by Courtny Tomas on double bass. Malcolm seems to always let the tune dictate the instrumentation which doesn’t always have to spotlight him. There’s some excellent flute work from Atholl Ransome early one before Malcolm takes over mid way through. The full band comes back with the haunting theme with Atholl and Malcom in and out leading the charge.
The Wanderer has Malcolm leading from the start with a bouncy head, with more great vocals from Jo Harrop, driving percussion from Sam Bell and more flute from Atholl. With all of that great backing, Malcolm shines in this wandering trip along some very smooth riding curves. The bass and percussion break sets up Jo’s reentry on vocals and she and Malcolm cruise right up to the return home.
The Last Goodbye is a cinematic ballad that one could envision as playing during a breakup scene with Malcolm playing a lamenting style over the lush strings arranged by Phil Steel, with all the strings played by Richard Curran. This track is mixed in way that gives the feel of a live recording with rich instrumentation. Malcolm has a trumpet only piece towards the end that punctuates the song with a touch of strings filling in…very silky.
Elaine is another with a cinematic feel, perhaps film noir. Malcolm leads out front in the A section with George Cooper following midway with a lush string-backed piano solo. Malcolm picks up the main voice with a wall of sound background. Malcolm and George play off each other right up to outro.
Cut to the Chase brings the heat right from the start with a horn line lead and punctilious percussion driving along in near latin, big band fashion. This time Malcolm takes a muted trumpet solo with extra grease for propulsion. The horns are super tight on the repeat. This jam is universal and should broadly appeal to listeners worldwide. George Cooper’s piano solo breaks into a percussion only bridge before the main theme returns in full force.
Maybe Next Time has a beautiful string and piano opening, that gives way to Malcolm heading up the horn section. Danny Barley on trombone has a strong second voice to Malcolm and the production with the strings harkens back to the great fusion era in the mid to late 70s. This piece is a nicely rounded closeout for all the players, particularly Cooper who has a scintillating solo here as well. All around, another great piece from Malcolm and the crew.
Malcolm Strachan, (trumpet)
Atholl Ransome (tenor sax/flute)
George Cooper (piano)
Danny Barley (trombone)
Courtny Tomas, (double bass)
Erroll Rollins (drums)
Sam Bell (percussion)
Jo Harrop (vocals on Nossa Dança and The Wanderer)
Strings arranged by Phil Steel and played by Richard Curran.
I can’t say I’ve heard of Strachan until today, but by the sound of it, it should be a scorcher of an album.
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