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Raymond Guntrip Jazz Band and Tina May “OUT OF THE BLUE” release from the prolific British jazz composer / performer and jazz lyricist singer Tina May, both if who are well established on the jazz scene internationally. Raymond Guntrip has more than two hundred compositions and various album releases to his name along with many with the lyricist jazz singer Tina May, who sadly passed away in Paris, France, (after a battle with cancer) in April this year (2022

“Out of the Blue” features a wide variety of Raymond Guntrip and Tina May’s compositions played by some of the UK’s leading musicians. The enthusiastic involvement of these two influential figures on the music scene brings Raymond Guntrip and Tina May’s performances to a wider audience, is itself a testimony to the quality of the music it celebrates.

The catalyst for this recording project was Gary Barnacle, sometime tenor-sax player with Tina Turner and Level 42, as well as a host of big-name bands from Jamiroquai to David Bowie, the Clash and Phil Collins. He was prompted to suggest a recording project after playing a number of gigs with Raymond Guntrip’s jazz band band. Gary Barnacle also spotted an additional opportunity and for Raymond Guntrip the unexplored potential being the addition of lyrics to his instrumental jazz compoditions.

An inspired recommendation brought Raymond Guntrip together with female jazz singer and lyric writer, Tina May, a vocalist with an international reputation, whose recent projects with the legendary pianist Ray Bryant and Bobby Watson, showcased her skills as both world-class lyricist and singer. Impressed with the strength of Ray’s compositions, Tina added words that give an added dimension to the widely contrasting moods of eighteen of his tunes, nine of which are on this CD, from the tongue-twisting “Be-Bop – I Gotta Get Away From You”, to the rocking, “He’s Mr Twister” to the anarchic intensity of “Demons Dancing”. “I try to find a story in all these compositions of Raymond Guntrip”, says Tina. “What’s nice is when someone’s personality comes through their compositions.

These are quite quirky – I like that. “Be-Bop – I Gotta Get Away From You”, was a lot of fun. You know what it’s like when you get a tune in your head and can’t get rid of it. Squarely rooted in the jazz tradition, Raymond Guntrip’s compositions have a harmonic or melodic twist that gives them an unmistakable signature.

“Out of the Blue” reveals the rich variety of his compositions. The 7/4 time signature pulse of Demon Dancing, slips from Tina’s hypnotic vocal into a surging tenor exchange between Gary Barnacle and Julian Siegel. Several other pieces have a Latin feel, the two Mambo titles, “Santa Maria Dance” and “Out Of The Blue”.

The 12-bar blues underpins the track “He’s Mr Twister” while one song, “Is it love?” puts a new head on top of the familiar chords of the standard, “What’s this thing called love?”.

For the most part, though, Ray’s compositions follow their own harmonic path. Without doubt, the twists and turns of these progressions bring out some outstanding solos.

These range from the rapid-fire trombone of Mark Nightingale, heard on several tracks including “Be-Bop – I Gotta Get Away From You”, and “That Mambo Beat”, to the exquisite tenor sax of Iain Ballamy on the title track of the album release, and the poised lines of Dick Pearce’s trumpet on “Santa Maria Dance”.

Providing a rich harmonic context for Ray’s themes are his arrangements played by, among others, Alan Barnes on various saxes, trumpeters Stuart Brooks and Enrico Tomasso, Nik Carter on alto sax, bassist Alec Dankworth and drummer Tony Bianco.

Most of the musicians will be well known from other contexts: Mark Nightingale is the trombonist of choice for many groups, including Steely Dan, while Stuart Brooks has been a Mike Westbrook regular and featured in George Russell’s bands. All but one of the songs features Tina May. “Move That Mambo Way” is sung by Laura Knight, who also wrote the lyrics for this tune.

The one instrumental on this “Out if the Blue” album release, “Simple Simon”, is an up-tempo, high-voltage waltz.

“Out of the Blue”, features several regulars from Raymond Guntrip’s bands. John Willis on drums and percussion, Steve King, bass, percussion and vibraphone, Neil Francis, electric bass, Damian Hawker on guitar who soloes on “Is it Love?”, Dave Harvey, flute and soprano sax, Jon Peel, flugelhorn, Lawrence Fletcher, bass clarinet, Gary Barnacle, tenor, and Laura Knight, backing vocals as well as lead vocal on “Mambo Way”.

And last, but not least, Raymond Guntrip himself is heard as band leader on grand piano, Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes.

Aside from anything else, the musical spectrum covered by “Out of the Blue” marks this album, as an exciting collection of original jazz compositions. Together, these tunes establish Raymond Guntrip partnered by Tina May, as a genuinely individual voice on the jazz scene.

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