As a listener I have taken an interest in Hannah Horton for a couple of years now. There is something refreshing and special about her approach, interpretation and delivery. Now, Hannah is releasing ‘Inside Out’ which is a curated selection of her compositions and covers of numbers which Hannah feels speak to her musically and personally. As I write this, ‘Inside Out’ is playing and I am transported to a world of beautiful music, touched at times with an edge which is incredibly engaging. The recording is a balanced and fruitful journey for the listener with tracks ranging from easy going to traumatic and emphatic, emotive style.
Put together at a time during which Hannah has observed a plethora of changes, she says of the release, “Now feels like the right time to release ‘Inside Out’ for me, both as an artist and personally. The pandemic has been a weird and strange time for everyone. We have all been weathering the COVID 19 storm in our own ways. What with that, plus my father losing his long battle with cancer just before the first lockdown, putting my creativity into ‘Inside Out’, hanging out with my best friend and soul healer – music- has led me to release now.
Although the album was created during, I suppose, a time of grief, pandemic uncertainty and emotional ups and downs, ‘Inside Out’ is about turning that into an inner strength. It is a reflection that throughout life we grow, we, as humans, build resilience and how time teaches us confidence, inner strength and acceptance.”
Backed by a band which understands her interpretations – the essence of this album is synergy, topped with a reaching out and engaging with listeners across a broad spectrum. Ian Shaw adds his distinctive vocals to two tracks with emotive, powerful tones, making him the nigh-on perfect choice for this recording.
Hannah plays flute, bassoon and clarinet as well as saxophone and attended the Junior Guildhall School of Music and later Trinity College of Music, where she was inspired by UK musicians including Mark Lockheart, Tim Garland and Paul Bartholomew.
As well as pursuing her own career, Hannah is keen to encourage others and she runs ‘J Steps’ – an initiative to nurture talent of musicians who identify as female or non-binary, with the aim of balancing a historic lack of representation of women in jazz.
Horton describes her compositions as rooted in not only jazz, but also folk and funk. Her career so far has included playing alongside artists including Amy Winehouse, John Etheridge, Georgia Mancio and performances in many of the UK’s prominent jazz venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, The Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican and The 606 Club – which is the wonderful space she has chosen to launch the album on 22nd September.
‘Keep Walking’ announces the start of the album and is a Horton original. With a walking gait throughout, the music is warm, nuanced with delicate flavours and touches provided not only by Horton but also the band members, who are supportive and intuitive. The sax soars, rises and sings across the top, creating waves of luxuriously warm melody across steady, rhythmic accompaniment. The piano solo from Crawford includes some gorgeous disharmonic emphasis which add energy and add a perfect contrasting interlude to the smoothness of Horton’s sax on this number. Hannah describes the track as “The vibe of moving on, not looking back and knowing it is the right move for your freedom, independence, soul and resilience.”
‘Surfing Thermals’ is another Horton original, inspired by watching birds of prey gliding in the air, surfing on the thermal winds and you feel it in this number as the melody circles, loops around and returns again to the syncopated 6-note theme, deftly reflected in the bass line, interspersed with some dynamic and well-developed backing, including wonderful rhythmic changes from the percussion.
‘Frozen Light’ was inspired by the sight of haw frost putting Nature into a frozen pause, creating a “vision of frozen light as the sun shines through” and features Ian Shaw’s wonderfully tuneful vocals which fly above Horton’s steady scale descents before the sax rises to solo. Shaw adds warmth and at times, there is almost a whispered awe in his vocals to the wonder of Nature and the moment of frozen light.
Miles Davis’ ‘Nardis’ is given superb and respectful treatment by Horton. Davis famously quipped about playing the “notes which aren’t written” and here, Horton finds them and delivers a gorgeous version. The number is testament not only to Davis’ ability to write music for saxophone (he wrote it for Nat Adderley’s alto) but Horton’s interpretive skills on tenor and joyful improvisation skills. It features a beautiful bass solo from Statham and a piano interlude from Crawford too. Horton describes the piece as one of her favourites – “strong, emotional and groovy” and this just about sums it up.
‘Peacocks’ has become one of Horton’s signature tunes and she says she felt she just had to record it. The contrast here to the numbers which have gone before on this album is beautiful and Horton creates a delicate, curvaceous, emotive and evocative sound, reflected also in the extended piano solo. The number showcases Horton’s range and dexterity.
Chick Corea’s ‘Windows’ is swingy, and features some great working in the rhythm changes of tempo. Horton drops in, almost by-the-by, some intricate and lifting solo work across the top whilst the band provide steadfast support, not surprising with a Corea number, led by the piano line.
‘Horn Dance’ is Horton’s interpretation of a local Morris dance tune – and given that it is played at around 165 beats a minute – which Horton describes as ‘a slow horn dance’ it reflects Horton’s earliest memories of folk music. The deep notes of the baritone sax provide an almost excessively delicious ripeness to the sound.
The Sherman Brothers’ ‘Feed The Birds’ from Mary Poppins is given a driving calypso feel and this works a treat. Horton comments, “One of my favourite films, but this song makes me feel sad in the film, so I experimented with grooves, percussion and this is the result.” Absolutely nothing sad about this funky improvised interpretation.
Another Horton original ‘Breathing Out’ once again features the vocals (and lyrics) of Ian Shaw and is a slow, decorous number written as “a huge exhale, a letting go of struggles and sigh of release”, according to Horton. Shaw does not enter until around the 1 minute 20 mark but his vocals take the song into new territories as he sings about release and breathing out, letting go, which the sax responds to with a dynamic and emphatic solo. The final third sees Shaw’s vocalese interacting with the sax, creating a masterful and passionate delivery on both sides. A stand-out track on this fine album and a revelation, for me at least, of the supreme talents of both Horton and Shaw.
‘Escape’ is about vacations, feeling the heat of the sun and “knowing it is going to be a fantastic holiday”, as Horton puts it. In this track you can hear reflections of other standards but it is original Horton and glorious in its finesse and delivery.
I asked Hannah what playing music means to her personally and as a musician and how she sees jazz progressing after Covid. She told me , ” Hanging out with music and my sax is one of the best feelings. Music never lets me down, it is always there for me, and is my best friend. I am lucky to have met and learnt from fantastic musicians so far in my musical journey. Recording and collaborating with Ian, John, Nic and Rob was so great. These guys are not only amazing, but inspirational too and wonderful humans on top! It’s fantastic live music and all areas of the arts are starting to come back since the easing of restrictions. I have been buzzing after my 3 live performances in the past few months with an actual audience in the room! However, I think the world of live streaming has opened up accessibility and a different way of experiencing live music. Many jazz fans could not wait to go back and see live performances at venues, but also others who were not keen on travelling to those venues can now watch on their device which I think is kind of cool too! Perhaps this will allow more to listen and experience jazz. I have had amazing feedback from my ‘Jazz at the Cottage’ live streams which I started during the second lock down. They really kept me going, playing live albeit to no audience in the room, with live chat online. Having people watch and comment from all around the world is cool, although live with an audience tops this! I am really looking forward and excited for people to hear and experience ‘Inside Out’ live.
After listening (several times) to this album there can be no doubt Hannah Horton is a musician with a deep respect for original music and a talent for creating her own compositions with arrangements which are generous to those accompanying too. There is nothing esoteric about this album – it will appeal to a huge range of people. It is an album without flaw and one which it felt a privilege to review. Sammy Stein
Hannah Horton blows funky tenor, gutsy baritone and can write a good tune. Proof of this latter accomplishment is found in the five originals on the album – Two of which have vocals and lyrics by Ian Shaw.
However, nor is Hannah found wanting when playing other people’s songs – she does them justice without treading on the toes or riding on the backs of the original versions.
Nardis, she tells us, has become one of her favourite standards since divorcing.
Peacocks is one of her signature tunes so she just had to record it – I’m glad she did.
Windows – her favourite Chick Corea tune. Mine too – now!
Horn Dance – a local morris dance tune given a new twist with some of that gutsy baritone I mentioned earlier…
Feed the Birds. Yes it’s that awful tune from Mary Poppins. Not any longer – it kicks Julie Andrews into left field. Tuppence a bag? This take is worth a lot more.
Any album with Ian Shaw providing the voice and the words to go with it is well worth checking out and Frozen Light and Breathing Out are the ones featuring Shaw with Hannah’s baritone outstanding on the former and her tenor on the latter. Ian is typically outré, the voice and horn made for each other.
Keep Walking – the vibe of moving on; Surfing Thermals conjures up a variety of images but actually has nothing to do with the internet or winter underwear but relates to watching birds of prey gliding in the air. The final track, Escape, is about feeling the heat of the sun and heading off for a fantastic holiday.
Apart from the sax and the Shaw vocals, piano, bass and drums keep the groove alive. Great piano from John Crawford, superb bas and sympathetic drums. Lance
Saxophonist Hannah Horton’s second album release as leader is Inside Out. The album comprises of five original tunes, two of which have lyrics written by Ian Shaw, and five covers. Hannah has been described as a natural born improviser and is accomplished on flute, bassoon, and clarinet as well as saxophone. Hannah attended the prestigious Junior Guildhall School of Music and later the Trinity College of Music, where she was inspired by prominent British jazz musicians including Mark Lockheart, Tim Garland, and Paul Bartholomew.
The spectrum of emotions explored on Inside Out range from trauma to elation and are based on concepts and experiences that are felt and understood by society as a whole. Hannah explains the sentiment of the album perfectly by saying that:
“It’s about human emotion, trauma, exultation and more, and my response to these. It is a reflection that throughout life we grow, we as humans build resilience and how time teaches us confidence, inner strength and acceptance.”
This spectrum of emotion begins with an original composition ‘Keep Walking’ (see video at the end of this post). This is an uplifting, bright, positive tune that reflects Hannah’s idea of moving on without regret. Hannah’s sax carries the motif that recurs throughout the number and gives the feeling of forward motion. The piano of John Crawford gives the tune an added edge which contrasts nicely with the smoother sax tones. It is a very good start with excellent rhythmic support from Nic France on drums. ‘Surfing Thermals’ is inspired by watching birds of prey gliding in the air. There is a wonderful recurring sax theme in this tune that is stated from the outset, but it is the percussive Latin undertone that stands out for me that along with the counterpoint of pianist John Crawford – I keep going back to this track as it keeps delivering with each listen.
‘Frozen’ is the first of two tracks that features the lyrics and vocals of Ian Shaw. The interaction between vocal and sax is terrific to hear. Nik France keeps a subtle drum pattern playing beneath voice and horn, supporting both very well. The Miles Davis tune ‘Nardis’, written to be played by alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, sounds great played by the tenor sax of Hannah Horton. Electric bass player Rob Statham gets a chance to solo and takes it well. There are also some wonderful piano sections for John Crawford to show why Hannah would have chosen him to play on this album. This is a good tune played very well and it is easy to understand why Hannah describes it as one of her favourites.
The Jimmy Rowles number ‘Peacocks’ is one of Hannah’s signature tunes and is a different sound to what has gone before: more reflective in tone with washes of cymbal for the listener to immerse themselves in. The playing on this track is absorbing, emotive, delicate, and utterly compelling. Each musician adds their own layer to this beautiful tune that creates one of those numbers that will sound different on each subsequent listening dependent on the mood of the listener at the time. Chick Corea’s ‘Windows’ changes the mood and tempo with a more upbeat character. This familiar tune is interpreted so well by Hannah with nuanced light and shade in her playing. As one might expect from a Chick Corea number, the piano sections are strong but it when Hannah floats in over the top that the richness of piece is highlighted.
‘Horn Dance’ is something completely different. This traditional slow Morris dancing tune has the tempo turned up to 170 bpm. There is a great bass solo section punctuated by bursts of sax and piano in unison. This is a fun number to listen to and a fine example of how folk and jazz can be blended to good effect – but I really wouldn’t want to try and Morris dance to it. Many jazz musicians have taken music from film or stage musicals and created something quite wonderful (just listen to any number of takes on the music from My Fair Lady as an example) but ‘Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins? On paper it sounds the least likely of tunes from that film that would work but work it does. The percussion is great throughout and gives the tune a light funk groove that is far removed from the original film score.
‘Breathing Out’ is the second tune that features Ian Shaw on vocals. Hannah said that this number was “written as a big exhale, a letting go of struggles, a huge sigh of release” and it achieves its intended purpose. Ian’s vocals sound wonderful and with Hannah’s sax responding to his delivery in the way it does ‘Breathing Out’ emphasizes just how well two voices can come together to lift a tune to another level. The final track leaves the listener in an upbeat mood with its holiday feel, jaunty tune, and wonderful tone from the sax. ’Escape’ is just that, an escape from all that has gone before and a chance to get away.
This is the first album by Hannah Horton that I have heard – I have heard her play on other people’s releases – and I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to her work. Hannah’s original compositions are good, and I like the fact that she has the confidence to own five of the ten tracks chosen for ‘Inside Out’. Her covers too are strong and well chosen – and in the case of ‘Feed the Birds’ somewhat inspired. I also like that the album has made use of the vocal talent of Ian Shaw whose lyrics give an added dimension to Hannah’s compositions. This is a good album that has elements of fun, reflection, emotion, and variety and will be in the CD player as soon as it arrives from Bandcamp and for some time after.
Musicians: Hannah Horton – tenor and baritone saxophones; John Crawford – piano; Nic France – drums and percussion; Rob Statham – electric bass; guest vocals – Ian Shaw.
Hannah Horton is a multi-instrumentalist who plays various saxophones in addition to flute, clarinet and bassoon. She studied at the Junior Guildhall School of Music and later at Trinity Laban, where her saxophone tutors included Mark Lockheart and Tim Garland.
Horton released her début album, “Forget Me Not”, as far back as 2012, making this second release long overdue. However Horton has been far from idle in the meantime, working prolifically as a sidewoman with vocalists Georgia Mancio, Irene Serra, Tina May, Natalie Williams, Polly Gibbons, Esther Bennett, Fiona Ross and Ian Shaw plus guitarists John Etheridge and Louis Thorne. As this list suggests Horton has a particular affinity with vocalists and her CV also includes performing alongside the late, great Amy Winehouse.
In addition to writing and performing Horton also runs J Steps, an organisation designed to nurture the talent of musicians who identify as female or non-binary, it’s main aim being to redress the historic lack of representation of women in jazz.
Like so many recent album releases “Inside Out” (which I also remember as being the title of a John Martyn album) is a product of lockdown and features a fifty-fifty mix of Horton originals and outside material, not all of the latter necessarily drawn from the established jazz canon.
Horton’s album notes describe the inspirations behind the album as follows;
“’Inside Out’ comes from within. The album is a reflection that throughout life we grow, we as humans build resilience and time teaches us confidence, inner strength and acceptance”.
“It’s about human emotion, trauma, exultation and more, and my response to these”.
“Inside Out” was recorded in March 2021 at Masterchord Studios with Horton specialising on tenor and baritone saxophones. The core group features pianist John Crawford, electric bass specialist Rob Statham and one time Nucleus drummer Nic France. Horton has frequently collaborated with vocalist Ian Shaw and the singer adds both his voice and his lyrics to two of Horton’s original pieces here.
Horton’s notes also offer further insights as to the inspirations behind the individual tracks, beginning with the opening original “Keep Walking”, which is about “the vibe of moving on, not looking back and knowing it is the right move for your freedom, independence, soul and resilience.”
Musically the piece exhibits a similar confidence with Horton’s tenor soaring above a syncopated groove that is not so much a walk as a strut. Pianist John Crawford, a superb accompanist but also a bandleader in his own right, steps out of the shadows to add an exuberant solo.
“Surfing Thermals” is another Horton original, this time inspired by “laying on the grass looking skywards, watching birds of prey gliding in the air, surfing on their thermal wings”. The mood is again buoyant and optimistic with an Afro-Cuban aspect added to the rhythmic grooves laid down by Crawford, Statham and France, with the latter’s drums and percussion featuring strongly in the arrangement. Horton’s sax sound has been described as being ‘vocalised’, this in the sense that her melodic lines could easily be sung (as opposed to the free jazz or avant garde ‘extended technique’ interpretation of the term) and as such she’s a great communicator, her style punchy and direct.
A third original, “Frozen Light”, features the voice and lyrics of guest vocalist Ian Shaw. As to the inspiration behind the song Horton states; “inspired by the vision of haw frost putting nature into a frozen pause, then the sun shines through giving a vision of frozen light”. Shaw’s words are simultaneously economical, descriptive and poetic and his delivery warm and empathic. The featured instrumentalist is the leader, whose baritone solo exhibits an impressive grace and fluency.
Miles Davis’ “Nardis” is the first of a run of standards with Horton declaring “This has become one of my favourite standards since divorcing, it’s strong emotional and groovy”. Of course this is a composition that has been recorded on numerous occasions by a wide variety of jazz artists but Horton’s version is up there with the best of them with the leader’s eloquence on tenor complemented by impressive cameos from Statham on electric bass and Crawford at the piano.
It’s all been fairly upbeat thus far but Horton’s version of “The Peacocks” now demonstrates her impressive skills as the interpreter of a ballad. “This piece has become one of my signature tunes, therefore we just had to record it”, she declares. There’s genuine emotion in Horton’s playing and she enjoys wonderfully sympathetic support from her bandmates, with Crawford adding an appropriately lyrical piano solo.
Horton simply describes “Windows” as “One of my favourite Chick Corea tunes”. Following Corea’s recent sad demise this is a tune that has been widely covered during 2021. Crawford introduces this performance at the piano and the piece swings gently and gracefully, gradually gathering momentum as Horton stretches out on tenor, followed by Crawford at the piano.
Horton has spoken of the influence of other genres on her writing, these ranging from funk to folk. Her roots in the latter find expression in her arrangement of “Horn Dance”, an adaptation of a local morris dance tune, of which she says; “Recorded at just under 170 bpm this slow horn dance has been given a twist! This is my all time favourite morris dance tune and my first memory of folk music.”
This lively and quirky offering represents Horton’s second outing on baritone sax and the tune works surprisingly well in a jazz context, with Statham soloing dexterously on electric bass and France supplying an impressive rhythmic drive.
Another unexpected selection is Horton’s version of the song “Feed The Birds” from the film “Mary Poppins”. Talking about her arrangement Horton states; “One of my favourite films, but this song makes me sad in the film, so I experimented with grooves and percussion and this is the result”.
The performance opens with a solo tenor sax cadenza from Horton, but later gathers pace with a joyous calypso style groove that underpins her fluent sax soloing. Crawford subsequently takes over at the piano, his sparkling solo maintaining the Caribbean feel. There’s nothing remotely sad about this playful arrangement.
Ian Shaw’s second contribution comes with the addition of his voice and lyrics on Horton’s song “Breathing Out”, which its composer describes as being “Written as a big exhale, a letting go of struggles, a huge sigh of release”. This time the composer features on tenor while Shaw sings his own lyrics with eloquence and conviction. The instrumental solo comes from Horton, who later duets with Shaw’s wordless vocals.
The album ends on an optimistic, upbeat note with the Horton original “Escape”, a paean to the delights of going on holiday, a simple pleasure denied to so many for so long. Horton describes this tune as being about “Hot vacation time! Feeling the heat of the sun and knowing it is going to be a fantastic holiday”. The mood is relaxed, optimistic and gently swinging with Horton making subtle allusions to other standards as she solos on baritone sax, followed by Crawford at the piano and Statham on electric bass.
Horton’s music could hardly be described as radical but it is hugely enjoyable and the upbeat, sunny atmosphere of many of the pieces represents something of a relief after months of lockdown misery. The leader shows an admirable fluency on both tenor and baritone saxophones and the playing from all concerned is excellent throughout. I have been a long time admirer of Crawford’s playing and it’s good to hear him in such good form here, both as accompanist and soloist. Having first heard France playing with Nucleus more years ago than I care to remember it has also been good to catch up with him again.
Horton herself is in the producer’s chair and the music is enhanced by an excellent recorded sound, so hats off too to engineers Ronan Phelan and John Prestage.
“Inside Out” has already been officially launched at London’s 606 Jazz Club but watch out for an EFG London Jazz Festival appearance from Horton and the quartet when they appear at the Toulouse Lautrec Jazz Club on November 13th 2021. For further details please visit http://www.hannahhorton.com – The Jazz Man
Newcomer Hannah Horton has a new release called Inside Out. This is some straight ahead jazz, but it has an infusion of funk, so you may want to take a listen to the music.
Her band is a quartet that includes Hannah on baritone and tenor saxophone, John Crawford on piano, Rob Statham on electric bass and Nic France on drums and percussion.
This is how Hanna explains the album: “It’s about human emotion, trauma, exultation and more, and my response to these. It is a reflection that throughout life we grow, we as humans build resilience and how time teaches us confidence, inner strength and acceptance.”
The funk is real, and it is evident on the opening track Keep Walking. You can tell that the band has an edge to them, and that they enjoy playing together.
Nardis is one of the Standards that the band recorded, and it is really hip, but timeless at the same time. This is some straight Supperclub stuff right there.
Inside Out contains ten tracks, five originals and five remakes. The UK based band will peak some interest due to their musicianship and styling.
The album is available now, and you can stream through your favorite platform. – By ExoticDJ