MISSING YOU – NEW ALBUM FROM SAX MAESTRO, SNAKE DAVIS
SNAKE DAVIS is the sax player’s sax player and he’s back with Missing You, a stunning new collection of saxophone led instrumentals. Recorded with the Snake Davis Band regular Paul Birchall (keyboards) and featuring Simon Goulding (bass), Alistair Thynne (drums), multi-instrumentalist, Ed Poole and assorted guest musicians, Missing You is Snake’s first outing since 2011’s Snake Strings.
With the first tracks laid down in Japan two years ago, Missing You has been a long time coming. It’s undoubtedly worth the wait for Snake Davis fans. Seamlessly moving between original compositions and classic pop tunes, Missing You sounds like Davis and his band have a found themselves a brand new box of paints and they’re playing with a whole new set of colours.
The sauntering sax-voiced, jazz-tinted balladeering of opener and title track Missing You is a gentle introduction to the ways of The Snake. Hot on its heels comes the soul-fusion instrumentals Human Nature and The Real Thing. With the Snake Davis band, particularly the influence of collaborator Ed Poole, colouring melodic hooks in splashes of synth and out-of-phase Stratocaster, it’s a fondly felt embrace and a welcome trace of 80s retro. Davis is in dancefloor-filler mode – funkier and fruitier than we’ve heard in a long time.
Davis said, ‘I’ve known Ed for a long time, but this is the first time we’ve worked together and his influence has certainly given us that classic soul feel.’
Familiar Davis touchstones of crystal clear melody and sweet soul style are in abundance throughout. On new song Falling (co-written with Paul Birchall) Davis’s haunting melody is swept on a lush orchestral wave – a respectful nod to the Love Unlimited Orchestra’s finest 1970s moments. Ample evidence, here, of those outings with the Solo Players String Quartet on Snake Strings. An older, wiser Snake plays new tricks to perfection, particularly on the ballads.
As Davis admits, ‘When I’m writing, I’m thinking more about my life experiences and they find their way into the music, so maybe with some of the things that have happened recently, it’s a deeper, more grown-up album.’
Recorded live at Durham City Hall, at Snake’s own studios, and on the road in Japan, the slower tunes on Missing You often reveal a sense of longing for home. None more than the minimal Akasaka. Davis’s flute melody unfolds like a Tokyo prayer for the travelling musician, then by way of an answer, he delivers exuberant Irish reel, The Shannon Pint. It’s a defiant moment: a source of strength and connection through melody.
The greatest surprise on Missing You is saved for the last track. Year of the Snake is another Davis/Birchall composition. The last to be completed – the artwork was ready and waiting for the final mix – here the band are in delicious free-spirited jazz mode, off the leash and showing their chops. Davis’s playing has never been more on the money and, ladies and gentlemen, Snake Davis in full flow is a gorgeous thing.
‘Missing You’ is the latest offering from a player who has long been regarded as the UK’s leading exponent of contemporary jazz and pop tinged R & B. His recording credits are almost too numerous to mention and the eclectic nature of the music that he routinely delivers not only delights his considerable following but also keeps them very much on their collective toes.
In fact ‘Missing You’ is a brilliant blending together of original music with some of the greatest pop anthems of all time. In this latter category Snake totally nails the evocative ‘Human Nature’ that back in 1982 was part of Michael Jackson’s seminal CD ‘Thriller’. Equally he totally blows the doors off the Prince classic ‘Purple Rain’ while Andrew Gold’s ‘Lonely Boy’ (recorded live during a gig at Durham Town Hall in the north east of England) proves to be another highpoint. That said, although he later re-imagines tunes such as ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ and ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’, its when he turns to his own songs that things really start to get interesting.
Take for example the superbly tender title cut which is a wonderful example of contemporary jazz at its best and one of two numbers co-written by Snake and Ed Poole. The other is ‘The Real Thing’ which in complete contrast really fizzes from beginning to end. It’s a brilliant example of the light and shade that Davis effortlessly packs into his work and much the same can be said of Snake’s own composition ‘Perfect’ that shifts effortlessly between sublime tranquillity and something altogether more uplifting.
He slides easily into folk territory for a merging of ‘Akasaka’ and ‘The Shannon Pint’ where on flute he really captivates yet in terms of personal favourites, the moody yet soulful vibe of ‘Falling’ is extremely hard to beat. It’s a track where Davis and keyboard player Paul Birchall are joined by bass man Winston Blisset and drummer Andy Bleakely. Peter Whitfield and Keith Andrew also contribute on strings and guitar respectively. Suffice to say, the entire combination, much like the album itself, works to perfection.
‘Missing You’ is arguably the most accessible body of work from Snake Davis to date and comes highly recommended.