Thoughts on Martin Speake’s Universal Connections, 9 March 2022

Surprise! Hans Koller plays great Euphonium as well as  very fine piano. That is, his playing that is very fine, but he does like our piano.

Martin Speake brings a band of heavy listeners: himself on alto, Hans, Anders Christenssen on bass and Anders Mogensen on drums. Indeed, this is music that requires listening. It is filled with lyricism and emotion, built on great technique and a band in each others minds. I have no favourites. Most of the music is from Martin’s hand. One, “Balance”, is recognisably based on Parkers “Moose the Mooche”.

Our audience are great listeners too, and they enjoyed the gig thoroughly.

Steve Jordan has provided us with a set list. Martin does not announce all of hs songs, but Steve did very well.

  1. Bouncy (Martin Speake
  2. Unannounced (but very likely from the Universal Connection recording)
  3. Unannounced (but very likely from the Universal Connection recording)
  4. Four Four (Martin Speake)
  5. What is there to say? (Vernon Duke/Yip Harburg)

A jazz standard performed by Johnny Hartman, Nat King Cole and Gerry Mulligan

  1. Father Sky (Martin Speake)

       *          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. Balance (Martin Speake)

Based on Charlie Parker’s Moose The Mooche)

  1. Heaven Energy (Martin Speake)
  2. Dissolving Illusions (Martin Speake)
  3. 10.Conspiracy Observer (Martin Speake)
  4. 11.Unannounced 
  1. 12.ENCORE: Unannounced
  2. Take care
  3. Dave

On Wednesday, 22nd June 2022: Terry Seabrook’s Milestones play Kind of Blue, £22.

Martin Shaw Trumpet

Alan Barnes Alto sax

Andy Panayi Tenor sax

Terry Seabrook Piano

Paul Whitten Bass

Spike Wells Drums

This was arguably the best concert I have heard in Gateshead Town Hall since Sonny Stitt took it apart in the 1960s . . .

Bebop Spoken Here

Miles Davis and his sidemen made musical history when they recorded the iconic album Kind of Blue. They created a unique atmosphere of understated themes and improvisation and Kind of Blue went on to become one of the greatest and best loved jazz recordings of all time.

More than sixty years on, Terry Seabrook has assembled an all-star sextet, Milestones, to revisit the album and celebrate the music of Miles Davis. The band has toured extensively at clubs and festivals around the UK.

The line-up reads like a “who’s who” of British jazz, with the fabulous Martin Shaw (Cleo Laine, John Dankworth, Peter King, Tim Garland) taking on the Miles role, Fleece Jazz favourite and multi-award winner Alan Barnes on sax, along with the magnificent Andy Panayi and a first-rate rhythm section.  The band pays due respect to Miles’ original music whilst allowing the musicians to showcase their own brilliance and improvisational skills.

. . . thoughtful and considered, yet full of jazz potency

–  Peter Vacher Jazzwise

 

On Wednesday, 10th August 2022 – Horn Factory, £18.

A welcome return for this fantastic outfit who, since 1998, have been bringing together some of the area’s top musicians to create their own distinct brand of fast-moving, hard-hitting, foot-tapping contemporary big band jazz.

Nineteen of the best local jazz musicians come together and share their passion for big, bold, beautiful music.

Horn Factory perform an impressive and extensive range of contemporary big band jazz by composers such as Buddy Rich, Bob Mintzer, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Maynard Ferguson, James Morrison, Bobby Shew, Sammy Nestico and Gordon Goodwin, plus arrangements of music normally associated with smaller groups, including Thelonious Monk, Joe Henderson, Chuck Mangione, Chick Corea and Horace Silver.

Most of the charts have been composed in the last 15 years, bringing the big band genre right up to date with music that absolutely crackles with energy!

Eighteen fine musicians on the extended Fleece Jazz stage gave us a mighty gig. I love the sound of a horn chorus, but to have fourteen of them in chorus was really something else: loved it.

–  Dave Lyons, Fleece Jazz

 

On Wednesday, 24th August 2022: Zoe Schwarz’ Blue Commotion, £18

Zoe Schwarz Vocals

Rob Koral Guitars

Pete Whittaker Organ

Paul Robinson Drums

Some quotes from live gigs:

“A different level of class. Zoe’s vocal: powerful yet vulnerable. Rob, Pete and Paul turned out a masterclass in Schofield-esque sophistication”

“This is a band of exceptional quality, fronted by the stellar vocals of Zoe Schwarz; you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to enjoy them” 

“Powerful singing, great guitar work, phenomenal Hammond… a great set and Zoe is such a stylish performer”

I had not intended using so many quotes, but so many good things have been written about this outfit. Of Zoe: “She also sings with honesty, emotion and intensity” (David J.Scott, Blues Revue)

And from Zoe herself:

“Blues isn’t about twelve bars. It’s about passion and melancholy; it’s about world weary angst.” 

Come join us for blues at its best.

On Wednesday, 13th July 2022: Bryan Corbett’s Hi-Fly Quintet, £20.

Bryan Corbett Trumpet/Flugel

Chris Bowden Sax

Matt Ratcliffe Piano

Tom Hill Bass

Carl Hemmingsley Drums

This outstanding quintet celebrate the year 1959 in jazz that saw the release of some of the most revered jazz albums such as Miles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’, Charles Mingus’ ‘Mingus Ah Um’, Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ and Ornette Coleman’s ‘The Shape Of Things To Come’ as well as ‘Blowing The Blues Away’ by Horace Silver amongst others by Benny Golson etc etc……

As well as performing under his own name, Bryan Corbett has been performing with world renowned stars, a who’s who in the jazz and commercial world. Bryan is not only a great performer of the jazz standards repertoire but an artist who pushes the boundaries writing and performing original works with his various line-ups. ‘A warm brilliant tone and formidable technique’ (the Independent). 

My favourite quote: “Bryan is one of the chosen few. Class, pure class, plays from the heart, every note has a reason to live. Truly someone who can sing through his instrument.”{Andy Taylor, who makes Bryan’s trumpets).

Saxophonist Chris Bowden works as an arranger and performer with a highly individual style. He first came to prominence with his 1996 funk/acid/Latin-jazz album ‘Time Capsule’.  Matt Ratcliffe has performed with a wide range of jazz musicians in clubs and festivals across the U.K. 

 

On Wednesday, 8th June 2022: Sara Oschlag/Jonny Hepbir Quartet, £18

Sara Oschlag Vocals

Jonny Hepbir Guitar

Jason Henson Guitar

Dan Sheppard Bass

Sara has a beautiful voice, a natural musician’s ear and a superb sense of swing. Jim Mullen says of her, “She displays a maturity beyond her years in her song selection as well as her interpretation and whether swinging hard or caressing a ballad, Sara takes the listener on a journey, breathing new life into the old standards”.

She says, “Being a musician is teamwork. You gotta listen to each other & support each other musically: be the foundation, guide or give space. But always listen & look around. Without communication there is no jazz. “ And she has a very fine team.

A quote about the band: “”you guys are good… really good!” (Sir Paul McCartney). 

The band offers a vibrant blend of Gypsy Swing, funky Latin tunes and cool Jazz Standards, spanning across the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, all mashed up with some snappy arrangements and played from the heart.

 

On Wednesday, May 11th, 8:00pm – The Gaz Messengers, £20

Gaz Hughes Drums and Bandleader

Alan Barnes Saxes

Bruce Adams Trumpet

Andrzej Baranek  Piano

Ed Harrison Bass

Tonight, drummer Gaz Hughes will honour the music of one of the true jazz drumming greats in a glorious quintet with Alan Barnes on saxes, Bruce Adams on trumpet,  Andrzej Baranek  on piano and Ed Harrison on bass. The art of ‘Jazz Messenger’ Art Blakey (1919–1990) – described by fellow drummer Max Roach as ‘Thunder’ – is captured superbly by Hughes.

The feel-good factor is there: this band’s easier-swinging interpretation is refreshing, with Bruce Adams’ piercing trumpet improv a stand-out. The entire ensemble sparkles as one; and whilst classic jazz numbers are just that, it will be great to hear them portrayed by today’s players and with their depth and clarity.