The punchy beginning to Bryan Ferry’s Jazz Age inspired instrumental album articulates from the outset that this is an album to take notice of. To celebrate Ferry’s 40 years as both an artist and as the creator of Roxy Music, Ferry has re-recorded much of his own work in the style iconic to the roaring ’20s.
There are no surprises in this album. Ferry has not set out to shock, or even indeed surprise. It is a nostalgia trip, right from the upbeat opening track Do The Strand down to the seductively lazy closing track This Island Earth. But what a beautifully crafted trip down memory lane it is. The Bogus Man is indicative, exuding class in its sedate pace. The muted trumpets and cheeky piano riffs excite, without bordering upon the raucous.
The songs are selected from 11 albums. This expanse of choice in itself is testament to Ferry’s enduring and creatively plentiful career. The albums date from his first in 1972, The Roxy Music, to his recent solo endeavour Olympia, from 2010. The jazz orchestra is comprised of individually selected British musicians.
Ferry started his musical career already interested in the composition of jazz music, so it is thus fitting that his memorial album would be thus focused. “I started my musical journey listening to a fair bit of jazz, mainly instrumental, and from diverse and contrasting periods,” Ferry comments. “I loved the way the great soloists would pick up a tune and shake it up- go somewhere completely different – and then return gracefully back to the melody, as if nothing happened. This seemed to me to reach a sublime peak with the music of Charlie Parker, and later Ornette Coleman.” The tracks selected reflect this propensity to diversity within jazz. Instrumentation ranges from soulful trumpets to mischievous saxophones.
The Jazz Age was a time of decadence, glamour and modernity – powered by an ultimately unsustainable economic boom. It was an era evocative of glamour and hedonism. The tracks selected to be re-recorded reflect this, most notably Don’t Stop The Dance. It has a quintessentially Jazz Age feel; the marching beat compels dancing, regardless of where it is played, such is its infectious rhythm. Ferry muses upon his interest in jazz, commenting “more recently, I have been drawn back to the roots, to the weird and wonderful music of the ’20s – the decade that became known as the Jazz Age.” While Ferry doesn’t sing on this record, the brass instrumental conversations that lace the tracks make up for the lack of voices.
The artwork is a further incarnation of Ferry’s love letter to the Jazz Age. Renowned French poster artist Paul Colin’s authentically art deco montages of flapper girls and sharply attired men form a neat complement to the album.
For anyone yet to be acquainted with the music of the Jazz Age, this is the perfect introduction to the sound of the era. That Ferry’s music can be so interpreted, and carried off so convincingly, suggests strength in depth to his canon of work.