Splinters Split the Difference

If you're a UK jazz aficionado, you already know that Splinters were a septet comprised of some of Britain's finest players from two musical generations, post-boppers like tenor sax/flute virtuoso Tubby Haynes and then young lions like transplanted Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and altoist Trevor Watts. Split the Difference is a lo-fi recording done by Watts of the musicians' first public performance on May 22, 1972 at London's 100 Club. The recording has been digitally cleaned up and is a perfectly serviceable document of the historic event. The CD is comprised of two extended tracks that nicely showcase the divergent styles of all the participants. Wheeler is particularly confident, coming out of the ensemble intro in full cry, playing the kind of astonishing full-range-of-the-horn things we've come to know as his fully mature style. Tubby Hayes, an older "establishment" figure, shows his open-mindedness and generosity of spirit by playing with the mostly younger players. His playing uses some Joe Henderson tactics, going outside with gigantic, overtone-laden lines, and his flute playing on the second track is strikingly fluid and big-toned. Alto saxophonist Trevor Watts shows that he's fully digested the lessons he'd learned from Ornette Coleman and makes good use of his solo space, playing with energy and original ideas to burn. Pianist Stan Tracey buoys the proceedings with Gil Evans-ish comping and drum legends John Stevens and Phil Seaman trade turns and keep the improv fire lit throughout the 77-minute recording. Unusually for a low-tech recording the bass of Jeff Clyne comes across strong and clear. It's a good thing too, as his playing has the intensity and technique of Gary Peacock. Split the Difference is an historical document that still resonates. (Reel)