Mace Francis Plus 11
4.5 stars
Reviewed by Barry O’Sullivan

This new album with its bold brass section was conceived by Mace Francis in his COVID19 safety bubble of Perth W.A. It was there he had the space and time to get creative arranging ten upbeat tunes for a twelve-piece band reminiscent of the recordings of the Marty Paich + 11 album from 1960 which featured the legendary Art Pepper on saxophone. Mace Francis employs a hint of Nelson Riddle, a tilt to Count Basie, definitively some Duke Ellington, a splash of “cool school” Gerry Mulligan, a little of Thad Jones, and a hint of Charles Mingus. But, mostly it’s just Mace’s music to make you happy. Five of the charts are purely instrumental, the remaining five are with vocals strongly supplied by Lucy Iffla on the tracks, Casserole For Two, Squint Your Eyes, Home On the Range, I’m In The Mood For Love, and less successfully on In My Solitude, where she doesn’t quite gain command when battling the band. But overall it’s a fun outing with some superb solos from Gemma Farrell on alto saxophone, Jayden Blockley on the soprano, and Tahlia Denn’s French Horn. Harry Mitchell’s pianism is superb throughout and Bronton Ainsworth’s drumming technique is perfect for the big band sound required. Mace Francis also provides some trombone, this being the first time he has played on his own recorded music – his tenth album release. While not always strictly in the Marty Paich mode, but never the less successful in its own right, the album is a coherent and engaging one that stands up well to repeated listening revealing a little more each time.