Scottish jazz pianist and composer Bill Wells has made his career out of eclectic collaborations, pairing his talents with a variety of indie rock fringe-dwellers and generally operating outside of the box with his acclaimed group the National Jazz Trio of Scotland. This outing under the Bill Wells & Friends banner finds the veteran bandleader leading an array of special guests through sparse reconstructions of both popular and fairly obscure nursery rhymes. Wielding a grant from from the arts organization Creative Scotland, Wells set up camp in New York, where he and Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake recruited various musical friends who were either living in the city or passing through at the time of recording.
For all their apparent innocence, at the centre of many of our best-loved nursery rhymes lies a dark heart. This has been fully exploited by Scottish musician Bill Wells for these unusual reworkings with an impressive cast of special guests, from indie heroes to New York jazzers. Yo La Tengo and Karen Mantler bring a stark jazziness to the tale of Three Blind Mice, and Björk-ish vocalist Amber Papini brings an appropriately sinister edge to Humpty Dumpty’s terrible fall.
It's nice when an album does exactly what it says on the tin, isn't it? Nursery Rhymes from Bill Wells and Friends, is one such album. In spite of any thought that I might have had that it might be an ironically obtuse dark jazz album or some such, it is in fact a set of incredibly well put together takes on all of your favourite nursery rhymes. If there's one you loved that isn't here I'd be deeply surprised.