"Cockle Row" opens the suite with a drum solo, a bouncing tenor line, and then the whole band playing a rather nice mid-tempo romp. Everyone solos, and everyone also supports each other when the entire group is playing. Wellins gets the opening lead, as he does for much of this CD, and demonstrates why he is still active and revered in the U.K. today as one of the pioneers of U.K. jazz. He demonstrate a light touch, round sound, and comfortable play. Tracey matches it with his solo and an equally nice touch and bounce. The drum set is omnipresent but not overbearing, and keeps everyone on tempo. Wellins is absolutely brilliant in his concept for "Starless and Black Bible" as his quiet tone floats above subdued piano chords to evoke the timelessness and atmosphere of Dylan Thomas' work. This is the most restrained piece; otherwise, there are many solid boppish tunes worthy of any of the great combos, U.K. or U.S., of the time. There is a very nice opening piano line to "I Lost it in Nantucket", played in a lower octave and at first sounding like the start of the Adams family theme. From there the song is Tracey's to play with, in an almost Monkish way, with simple touches, pauses, and openings for others to join in. "LLareggub" sees Wellins jumping into a nice uptempo song that is his feature until Tracy takes over midway with his own lively blues sound. "Under Milkwood" is a slow ballad for Tracey and Wellins to shine on with lovely long passages. It features lush playing, with nice restrained drum support tracing the tempo and adding little pops of coloring here and there. "A.M. Mayhem" has a lovely opening solo and then the entire group enters and takes a swinging approach to the song, with solid drum play and a moving bass line to give it its punch, its bounce. It is all Wellins to start, with Tracey comping nicely in support. Only after four minutes of swinging sax does Tracey takes over and then trades off to the drums and bass before the entire group takes it out.
Tracey's pianism varies in touch and tone with great virtuosity, and as with Wellins, he knows how to keep his solos short and concise even as he is creating great impressionistic swaths of sound. This is absolutely first rate, and should be a part of anyone's collection. It is not well-known to U.S. listeners so I hope those who are reading this will give it a try.