Thoughts on The Clark Tracey Quintet, 22 May 2024

To witness five musicians of this calibre on their very best form was a privilege and one that will remain with me for years. Newcomer RJ Gilbert on alto sax is still studying at Birmingham Conservatoire and if he were nervous to be playing with such established and highly accomplished musicians, it didn’t show. He was a cool customer who looked to be enjoying himself as he played off and with the others, particularly David Newton whom he obviously admired deeply (and who can blame him!)  I particularly liked his feature on the jazz standard My One and Only Love where he displayed seemingly effortless fluency and breath control throughout his sweet lyrical performance.

A Bitta Bittadose, based very closely on Bobby Watson’s A Bitter Dose, was a great crowd pleaser and gave each musician a chance to rise to the occasion in this later period Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers blues. The stunning pianism and inventiveness of David Newton complemented by the fine work on double bass, Simon Allen and RJ Gilbert leading the horn chorus and Clark Tracey demonstrating why he is consistently rated as the UK’s best drummer with his inventive use of his kit.

Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk stood out in the equally enthralling second set. It cannot be easy to play the work of such a musical eccentric and maverick, but David Newton seemed to relish the experience and deliver a stunning performance which he made his own. 

There were memorable solos throughout the gig, but i think people should take time to hear the obligatos. The inventiveness and intense listening provided by bass, drums, piano lifted the solos and put smiles on the faces of the musicians.

I may have misheard Clark announce the next number as In A Semi Mental Mood rather than In a Sentimental Mood, although never doubt his playfulness and dry wit especially when Simon Allen’s rendition on soprano saxophone was a quirky interpretation which tinkered with the time signature of the Ellington original. Equally as beautiful but not a slavish cover of that truly beautiful jazz standard.

Sonny Rollins’ St Thomas was played as a fittingly drum-led Latin shuffle by the whole band and concluded the set. I listened carefully to Clark’s use of little mallets on this one, and was flabbergasted to hear him weave three simultaneous cross-rhythms. 

The short but sweet encore was Hank Mobley’s This I Dig of You. Several members of our audience were moved to give the quintet a standing ovation and quite rightly so.

I am greatly looking forward to the conversations with Bill Evans provided by the Adrian York Trio, on June 12th. It promises to be an evening of quietly intense beauty, not to be missed.

Take care,




  1. Rainbow at the Five Mile Road (Stan Tracey) from the 1969 Stan Tracey Quartet album, Free An’ One
  2. Euphony (Stan Tracey) Stan’s first recorded composition from 1952 with Victor Feldman’s All Stars.  
  3. My One and Only Love (Guy Wood/Robert Mellin
  4. Remind Me In Three (Clark Tracey)based on the chord progression of Joe Henderson’s Recorda Me
  5. A Bitta Bittadose (Bobby Watson) based on Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ Bitter Dose

*          *          *           *        *        *        *

  1. A Funky Day in Tiger Bay (Stan Tracey) from the album Stan Tracey’s Hexad: Live at Ronnie Scott’s
  2. Blue Monk (Thelonious Monk)
  3. In A Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington)
  4. St Thomas (Sonny Rollins)
  5. Encore: This I Dig Of You (Hank Mobley)

On Wednesday 26 June, Fletch’s Brew- £20

Mark Fletcher Drums 

Freddie Gavita Trumpet/Flugelhorn

Paul Stacey Guitar

Jim Watson Piano

Steve Pearce Bass

“(Fletch’s Brew) . . . . . could, without overstating the case, easily be called Band of Virtuosos(Jazzwise magazine)

In 2010, drumming tour-de-force Mark Fletcher founded Fletch’s Brew, a band which blurs the boundaries of musical styles and surpasses preconceived notions of jazz.  Whether playing original compositions or new arrangements from across the jazz canon, their style floats seamlessly between the idioms of fusion, funk, bebop, reggae and rock.  Mark is a remarkably talented and muscular drummer, capable of subtlety but never better than when leading an all-guns-blazing charge, which is both very exciting and intensely engaging.

Freddie Gavita is an award-winning British trumpeter and composer who has cemented his place as a leading light on the British jazz scene.  He is a member of the Ronnie Scott’s Club Quintet as well as being a band leader in his own right, playing his own original music to great critical acclaim.  Once described as “a cross between Kenny Wheeler and Freddie Hubbard”, he has also played with, among others, Peter Erskine, Joe Locke, Jon Hendricks, Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzmann, Tim Garland, Gregory Porter and Dionne Warwick.

Paul Stacey is a guitarist, producer, mixer and actor. Paul was a member of NYJO in the ‘80s and The Lemon Trees with Guy Chambers in the ’90s, before working for many years with Oasis, the Black Crowes and Noel Gallagher. Jazz artists that he has worked with include Laurence Cottle, David Preston, Jason Rebello, Pino Palladino, Tommy Smith, Mornington Locket, Gary Husband, Clare Martin, Georgie Fame, Ian Shaw, Iain Ballamy, Jim Mullen, Bobby Wellins and Kenny Wheeler.

A session and touring musician of formidable repute, Jim Watson is rightly considered to be one of the most talented pianists in the country.  He has been featured in a huge variety of bands, including the Jazz/Funk bands Incognito, Brand New Heavies and US3, with US artists Lalo Schifrin, James Moody, the BBC Radio Big Band, Katie Melua and most recently Manu Katché. His jazz bona fides are just as impressive having worked with Dave O’Higgins, Julian Arguelles, Jean Toussaint and Peter King among many others. 

Steve Pearce is one of the most experienced bass players working in London today, playing regularly in the top studios in the capital.  His career spans over four decades over the course of which he has played with artists such as Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Mose Allison, Al Jarreau, Mark Knopfler Randy Crawford and many more.

We haven’t had anything like this in New York for over twenty years.” (Wynton Marsalis)

Thoughts on “Wakey Blakey” – The Music of Art Blakey

In the great debate about the superiority or otherwise of the audio quality of analogue sound (vinyl) as opposed to digital (CD and download), there is one listening experience that can be forgotten and that, of course, is live music.  Nothing beats it, especially when the band delivers to such a high standard as Wakey Blakey, the sextet led by Rory Ingham and James Davison playing the music of the classic sextet lineup of Art Blakey and The Jazz Mesengers.  It’s not just the immediacy of the experience and the fidelity of sound or even the spontaneity and sheer joy of improvised music, but being able to witness first-hand how musicians work together.

Last night was a cracker of an evening, a feast of hard bop by a superlative sextet who gave us the music of Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard and Curtis Fuller originally recorded by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  These albums are getting a fresh play today as I relive last night’s gig and marvel at the music once again.  

I am lucky to have seen Wayne Shorter many times as well as Cedar Walton and Freddie Hubbard once each, but not all in the same room at the same time with Art Blakey and the others. “Wakey Blakey” was a real treat and an awakening to how wonderful this music sounds live.  I was struck by the similarity of James Davison’s tone and urgency of delivery to that of Freddie Hubbard from the beginning during “Time Off”. He was very powerful, yet completely soulful and sensitive when required as on the beautiful rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark”.  I loved the bluesy growl of Rory’s trombone-playing in several numbers, especially “Hammerhead”.  An old Fleece regular used to say that the trombone was an “awkward instrument in the modern setting” but he hadn’t heard Rory play it as sensitively and as fluently as he did last night.  Rory was also a very amusing and playful compere who balanced humour with respect for the music of the Jazz Messengers.  Alex Garnett was a dep for another Alex and it was one of his best performances on tenor sax that I have seen from him in a while.  He played with conviction and soul and delivered some warm solos throughout.  

Pianist Matt Carter provided a constant propulsive rhythm throughout many numbers and did so faultlessly, with occasional bursts of freer improvisation. Misha Mullov-Abbado was a tall presence alongside his double bass, using his long frame and long dextrous fingers at such a rapid pace to provide the propulsive beat demanded by the faster numbers. I especially loved his solo that introduced Hubbard’s “The Core”. I’ve left our drummer until last which is how it often is, but this was a homage to the great Art Blakey, a huge presence who played with so much drive and passion. Luke Tomlinson was, like Art, sensitive to what was going on around the music and had two memorable and powerful solos on “Free For All” and “Ping Pong” that penetrated to the core.

The last word goes to Carlos Santana: “Art Blakey’s drive, passion, soulfulness, heart and innovation were and still are inspirations that help and require us to move the music ever forward.” That was very much in evidence in last night’s performance from Wakey Blakey.

Take care,


Dave says:

That was an accurate review of a great show. The sound check was terrific fun to be part of, even though the only mics were piano and leader.



Towards the beginning of the gig, Rory Ingham explained that the numbers they would be playing were originally performed by the classic sextet lineup of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers: Wayne Shorter (tenor sax); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Cedar Walton (Piano); Reggie Workman (Bass); as well as Art Blakey (drums) himself. The selections were mostly from the albums Mosaic (1961), Caravan (1962), Ugetsu (1963) and Free For All (1964

  1. Time Off (Curtis Fuller) from the album Ugetsu
  2. Hammerhead (Wayne Shorter) from the album Free For All
  3. Free For All (Wayne Shorter) from the album Free For All
  4. Skylark (Hoagy Carmichael)from the album Caravan
  5. One By One (Wayne Shorter) from the album Ugetsu

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. Children of the Night (Wayne Shorter) from the album Mosaic
  2. In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning (David Mann)from the album Caravan
  3. The Core (Freddie Hubbard) from the album Free For All
  4. Miyako (Wayne Shorter) from his album Schizophrenia 
  5. Ping Pong (Wayne Shorter) from the album Ugetsu
  6. Encore: Down Under (Freddie Hubbard) from the album Mosaic

On Wednesday 24 July Theo Travis’ Double Talk – £20

Theo Travis Saxes and flute

Pete Whittaker Organ

Mike Outram Guitar

Nic France Drums 

“High octane innovative jazz, continually evolving with underlying rock and ambient influences . . .”           (Mojo magazine)

The full flowing effect of the music from the Double Talk Quartet returns to Fleece Jazz for the first time in seven years.  Theo Travis’ influences are diverse and include the Beatles and Pink Floyd as much as jazz artists like Stan Getz, Pharoah Sanders, Elvin Jones and Chick Corea.  His many musical interests come together in this distinctive quartet project, which delivers music at the fluid interface between jazz, ambient and prog.  He has become one of the most active jazz artists and composers in the U.K. and in addition to having his own group, he is in demand as a sideman to musicians from a variety of musical genres.  He has worked with Soft Machine Legacy, Robert Fripp, David Sylvian, Anja Garbarek, John Etheridge, Gong, David Gilmour and Keith Tippett.

The bluesy, progressive jazz of the quartet draws heavily on the soulful Hammond organ of Pete Whittaker, the soaring guitar of Mike Outram and the powerful but subtle drums and percussion of Nic France.  Pete Whittaker is a regular member of the Nigel Price Organ Trio and has also been involved with several other jazz projects including Toni Kofi’s Organisation and guitarist John Etheridge’s “Blue Spirits”.  Mike Outram is one of the UK’s foremost guitarists who is sought after as an improviser and for his ability to contribute a unique voice to any musical ensemble.  He has toured internationally with Herbie Mann, Carleen Anderson and Tim Garland and recorded with Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp.  Nic France has an impeccable sense of groove and dynamics, making him a sought-after sessionist.  He has played with Andy Sheppard, Nigel Kennedy,  Barb Jungr and the Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra.

“Travis’ tenor is a warm, mellifluous instrument and together with the luscious, bluesy Hammond organ they create something rather unexpected…a prog-rock/jazz/blues hybrid of genuine power and excitement” (Guy Hayden)