When I was in Cambridge earlier this year, my friend Sergio told me that his band is about to release their debut CD any day now. When it finally was released, he promptly sent me a copy to Gran Canaria.
I heard one of incarnations of Better Than TV performing live in Cambridge some years ago, and then again what was (approaching) its current line-up rehearsing at Sergio’s house in 2013, the very day I unsuccessfully tried to enjoy, also on Sergio’s suggestion, the May Bumps. So it was not exactly unfamiliar stuff, but I still was impressed by quality of music on this record. (For the record, all tracks were captured live, something I would not say, er, without looking at the CD sleeve.)
What is Late? Not exactly cutting edge of modern jazz but, as Bertie Wooster could have put it, there is a time for cutting hedges and a time for not cutting hedges. In fact, I am quite happy away from being cut by any edge provided that I am not bored. And Better Than TV — indeed, quite unlike TV — won’t keep me bored. They could have easily put in a few standards (and make a good job of that too) but no, we’ve got nine originals, all penned by Sergio, and quite diverse at that. Latin-ish groove here, funky theme there, blues yonder, a bulería at 5 pm, a samba later, and so on and so forth in a stylistically united variety. My favourite so far is Morse, a beautifully hummable upbeat jazz-waltz, with just right balance of discipline and improvisation (incidentally, it is the shortest track on the album). But really there are no weak cuts here, and the band consistently shines without showing off. Respect.
The only minor annoyance is the not-so-well “hidden” track in the end. Why anyone still bothers to hide the tracks anyway? Just call it track #10 and tell me when it was recorded.
Independently produced, not even on an “independent” label but without any label, Late is a quiet but confident debut of a label-free band. Given that it was recorded two years ago, one should expect a follow-up soon... please?