Dancing on the Edge is the official soundtrack to the British mini-series of the same name, written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff; it was picked up by the American channel Showtime for re-broadcast. The music is credited to the "Louis Lester Band," named for the character played by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. The music and lyrics were actually composed by Adrian Johnson. Pianist Paul Englishby arranged and conducted the 12-piece band and two vocalists, Angel Coulby ("Jessy") and Wunmi Mosaku ("Carla"). The music walks a deeply nostalgic line. The series reflects the early '30s, when jazz took hold of England the way it had in America in the previous decade and a half. The music, however, is much closer to the sound of the late '30s and early '40s, and was deliberately influenced by the more refined sounds of orchestras led by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie circa 1937-1943. Johnson's knowledge of that era's music is encyclopedic. While he may borrow most of his ideas for horn charts from Fletcher Henderson and Billy Strayhorn, he adds some interesting timbral and textural qualities of his own -- check the elegant restraint of the horns in "Blue Sky in Bermondsey" and "Down River," as well as the more driving, thumping tom-toms in "It's Got a Grip on Me," with clarinet sailing above both the horns and the vocals; also, the silvery guitar- and trombone-led swing in "Sweet Mary Jane" evokes sounds from both the Hot Club of France and Ellington's Jimmy Blanton-Ben Webster group. It's difficult to say whether or not this set will engage most jazz fans, but it will certainly entice fans of the mini-series.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek