Thoughts on Terry Seabrook’s Milestones playing “Kind of Blue”, 22 June 2022

Steve Jordan has written a beautiful review of this gig. All I can add is they had SO MUCH FUN up there.

Take care,

Dave

On Wednesday last, pianist Terry Seabrook brought his band, Milestones, to Fleece Jazz to pay tribute to arguably the most innovative and creative musician in modern jazz, Miles Davis, and his most famous and eminently listenable album, Kind of Blue.  A classic of the new wave of modal jazz which Miles pioneered with others in the 1950s, it has been described as “one of the most important, as well as sublimely beautiful albums in the history of jazz”.

On trumpet and flugel horn, we had Martin Shaw in the role of Miles; on tenor sax, Andy Panayi, taking the role of John Coltrane; Alan Barnes on alto saxophone, a slimmed-down version of Cannonball Adderley; Paul Whitten on double bass and Spike Jones on drums taking the roles of Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb respectively.

The anticipation and expectation from our sizeable audience was great and the band did not disappoint. The highly recognisable vamp of Milestones, formerly known just as Miles on the original LP release, washed over the room and felt like an old friend who had been away too long.  The hoots of approval and cheers from the audience said it all.  Next up, a tune composed (but never recorded) by Miles, being most associated with the pianist Bill Evans: Nardis.  A blistering horn chorus, as in Cannonball Adderley’s interpretation, rather than the lyrical piano of Bill Evans, segues into an interlude from the rhythm section where we get the first opportunity to enjoy their collective playing.

Terry Seabrook introduces his Sketches of Miles suite which builds on modal themes from Miles’ music. At one point, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a big band orchestra and on opening them discovered that only Alan Barnes and the rhythm section were playing. A great sound, not least due to Dave Lyons on the sound desk.

The first set concludes with Side One of the original LP and once again we are transported back sixty plus years by the piano and bass introduction of So What, with its complex rhythmic style.  A special mention here should go to Paul Whitten, the “quiet man at the back”, who availed himself superbly throughout and set the pulse racing each time a familiar bass line was heard.  A special mention too to Andy Panayi for his Coltranesque solo which visibly moved both Martin Shaw and Alan Barnes to close their eyes and sway in a dreamy state.  It is so good to see band members enjoying the music so much and makes all the difference to the performance.  Without any pause apart from the rapturous applause and hoots of appreciation from our audience, we are into Freddie Freeloader, a blues with a melodic and rhythmic simplicity, with the opportunity for Martin “Miles” Shaw and Alan “Cannonball” Barnes to showcase their talents on trumpet and alto sax respectively. The pace calms a little with the ballad, Blue In Green, with its circular form and highly modal melody and again Martin Shaw delivers perfectly.

We could have stopped there and gone home happy and content, but we had a whole second set as a special bonus. Side Two of Kind of Blue began with All Blues, a blues form with just a few modal changes, had highlights from every single band member.  Flamenco Sketches takes the idea of modal jazz even further as Terry Seabrook explained: the improviser is given a scale or series of scales (modes) as material to improvise from, rather than a sequence of chords or harmonies.  With this last number from Kind of Blue, the series of scales is played as long as the soloist wishes until he has completed the series. This happened a number of times, most notably with Andy Panayi and Spike Wells giving no quarter.

Terry Seabrook’s Sketches of Miles Suite sandwiches another composition of his, Bopping for M.D., paying tribute to Miles’ later funk-influenced period.  A number that Miles performed on his album of the same name, Seven Steps To Heaven, would have been the last but we couldn’t let them go without an encore which was Monk’s Straight, No Chaser, also from Miles’ Milestones album.

You can probably guess I’d given up trying to analyse the music by the interval and sat back and enjoyed the moment. Wonderful, marvellous, glorious music.  Terry Seabrook recommended that we go home and dig out our old albums and see how Miles and his guys measured up to them.  I’ve done that and the jury is still out!

SETLIST

  1. Milestones (Miles Davis
  2. Nardis (Miles Davis)
  3. Sketches of Miles Suite Pt. I: (a) That’s What (Terry Seabrook)                                                

                                                        (b) Three Miles High (Terry Seabrook)

  1. So What (Miles Davis)
  2. Freddie Freeloader (Miles Davis)
  3. Blue In Green (Miles Davis/Bill Evans)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. All Blues (Miles Davis)
  2. Flamenco Sketches (Miles Davis) 
  3. Sketches of Miles Suite Pt. 2: Sideways (Terry Seabrook) 
  4. 10.Bopping for M.D. (Terry Seabrook)
  5. 11.Sketches of Miles Suite Pt. 3: Devil’s Own (Terry Seabrook) 
  6. 12.Seven Steps To Heaven (Victor Feldman/Miles Davis)

      Encore: Straight, No Chaser (Thelonious Monk)

Thoughts on Sara Oschlag/Jonny Hepbir Quartet, 8 June 2022

Steve is on holiday, so it is Dave doing a little review. I was so enjoying the music that I couldn’t note all of  the songs: no definitive set list today.

These four fine musicians gave us music of their own, but redolent of the Paris Hot Club, and the 40’s and 50’s.  We had vocalist Sara Oschlag: lovely phrasing, great , substantial voice, and real understanding of the stories  she was telling.  As a vocal instrumentalist, her scatting was superb. Jonny Hepbir  and Jason Henson played beautiful acoustic classical guitars. Their soloing was a delight. 

There is a part of their music that people don’t listen to, but if it isn’t  there, the music falls flat. It is the rhythm guitar. Both Jonny and Jason play rhythm guitar as it should sound. This is a rarity, and it was lovely to hear it.

The bassist, Rhys Lobell, was a last minute dep who had never played with the band before. The audience would never have suspected that until they were told about it late in the gig. Now, I was at the sound check and watched the process of giving a fine instrumentalist the vibe and riffs of some of the songs. In the gig itself it took only one song for the four of them to become one mind. 

The programme was mostly up tempo, with plenty of room for soloing from all four. I loved Sara trading 2’s with each of the band members, especially in Berlin’s “Putin’ on the Ritz”, She sang in French, Spanish, German and English. Sara’s story telling was almost graphic with the double entendre  lyrics of  “HoneySuckle Rose” (Fats Waller). 

Part of the fun of the gig was watching (and taking part in) the fun that the performers were having. I am not sure that there was ever a pre-designed set list, with decisions being made on the fly, while poking fun at each other. 

It was a highly enjoyable evening, with happy comments from the FAR too small audience. I would love to hear this band again,

Take care,

Dave