An excellent recording featuring the thrilling young violinist and vocalist Ben Holder on a varied selection of standards and originals. The quintet are Ben on violin, piano and vocals, James Evans on reeds, Jez Cook on guitar, Paul Jefferies on double-bass and Frank Hockney on drums. The set kicks off with a peppy arrangement of Fascinating Rhythm, followed by a measured and tender reading of Someday My Prince Will Come. Up next are a couple of Ben Holder originals, the lovely A. Gospel with Ben on piano and violin and James taking the melody and the swinging What Did I Do. Ben sings and plays violin on this last tune. The Folks That Live On the Hill, a beautiful ballad performance, finds Ben in duo with Jez. Ben is again on piano for Lucy’s Waltz, another of his originals. He overdubs a second violin in the solo and duets in counterpoint with himself. (They can’t touch you for it.) Bassist Paul gives solid support. Someone to Watch Over Me is a trio performance with Jez and Paul. Drummer Frank joins in as the group segues into Django’s Swing 42. You is an original with James switching from clarinet to alto saxophone. Ben sings and plays violin here. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square features Ben in melodic mood with just the rhythm section. Both Jez and Paul solo with aplomb. The joyful St Thomas includes fine percussion from Frank. The Nearness of You has Paul and Jez taking the melody and Ben playing some tasty piano. Another Ben original, a brisk Me, Myself and I, rounds off the record.
The CD is rightly a showcase for virtuoso Ben’s wide-ranging talents, but everyone in the group contributes admirably. If you’re an aficionado of hot violin and the likes of Stephane Grappelli, Joe Venuti and Stuff Smith or you simply love swinging and inventive jazz, these performances deserve your earnest attention. Ben Holder has arrived and he’s coming to get you!