British jazz has always been a perilous place to be.
Gigs can be few and far between, line-ups come and go and the appetite of audiences for something beyond the usual comfort zones can be zero. In this context then, there’s something to celebrate about Led Bib’s eighth studio album with a line-up that’s unchanged since their 2005 debut. That last point is probably the most important because it helps explain the degree of chemistry these players have that makes their brand of on-the-spot improvisation so compelling. Listening through this album is really like eavesdropping on a riotous conversation between old mates; there are all the in-jokes, good-natured wind-ups and lots of putting the world to rights with more than a few righteous and well-chosen arguments. There are also times when things don’t get anywhere, but what’s a few dead ends between friends? With two alto saxes delivering spiky themes, energy is maintained throughout by Mark Holub’s thrashing drums. Though not offering any significant departures from their previous work, when, after lots of skirmishing, saxes, bass, drums and keyboards all lock tight into what are often sumptuous and articulate melodies, Led Bib can do no wrong.