Thoughts on Joanna Eden and The Chris Ingham Trio, 21 November 2023

When Joanna Eden and Chris Ingham appear together, they usually do a double act. Not this time. It was Joanna’s show, and what a wonderful show it was. She took us from the beginning of Ella Fitzgerald’s career to the end. She was backed by Chris on piano, Andres Lafone on bass and George Double on drums, a perfect trio to support the lady (“Ella’s fellas”).

Joanna had structured the programme beautifully. She opened with a blast, “Get Happy”, which Ella often opened with. She kept to the structure of Ella’s career. I did not know that she wrote the second verse to “Manhattan” to get her birthplace in (it’s Yonkers). Her early life was a mile less than a joy, so “Someone to Watch Over Me” was spot on with Joanna’s narrative.

And then “A-Tisket-A-Tasket”, a simple number based on an old nursery rhyme with a tune identical to that other children’s rhyme “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring”. This was Ella’s audition piece that won her first prize with a song at a dance contest and went on to become her breakthrough hit with the Chick Webb Orchestra in 1938.

Joanna’s story-telling was illuminating throughout the gig. Her singing was all we expected of her. She is a musician to the core, with phrasing, timbre and her presentation integral to the song she is presenting. That is a real joy.

She had songs with pairs and individuals from the trio. Chris is a superb accompanist. Andres is new to us: he is a terrific bassist, and his work with Joanna was lovely. A song with just George? Amazing.

Joanna told us that Ella fell in love with bebop, and actually took lessons from Dizzy Gillespie. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for those lessons! “ A Night in Tunisia” and “How High the Moon” gave Joanna space to scat, and she was excellent. Famously, while performing in West Berlin in 1960, Ella launched into a cover of “Mack The Knife”. She didn’t know the lyrics too well and midway through the song, she completely forgot them. When in doubt, what does a jazz singer do? Scat! Ella’s version went on to become a big Grammy-winning performance from her live album, Ella in Berlin, proving what an expert improviser she was.

It was a pleasure to see how our large audience hung on every note as they watched Joanna and the band with love and admiration. Every number was enthusiastically received; the murmurs of warm appreciation were clearly audible as she launched into “The Man I Love” at the end of the first set, “The Very Thought of You” and “Miss Otis Regrets” in the second set. It would be difficult and an unnecessary diversion to pick a favourite moment as the whole performance was seamless and went far too quickly before the audience were calling for an encore. Our band, generous as ever, obliged with the tear-jerking “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” – a fitting end to a wonderful evening’s performance.

On Wednesday 13 December, we get to hear the power of award winning saxophonist Ed Jones. He is joined by Ross Stanley on piano, Riaan Vosloo on bass and Tim Giles on drums. Ed raises the temperature whenever he solos. Do come.

Take care,
Dave and Steve

JOANNA EDEN & THE CHRIS INGHAM TRIO: EMBRACEABLE ELLA
SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 21/11/23
1. Get Happy (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler)
2. Someone To Watch Over Me (George & Ira Gershwin)
3. Manhattan (Rodgers & Hart)
4. A-Tisket-A-Tasket (Traditional nursery rhyme extended by Ella Fitzgerald & Al Feldman
5. Caravan (Juan Tizol & Duke Ellington)
6. (If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have To Swing It (Mr Paganini) (Sam Coslow)
7. Desafinado (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
8. Sweet Georgia Brown (Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard & Kenneth Casey)
9. Winter Weather/I’ve Got My Love To Keep You Warm mash-up (Connee Boswell)/Irving Berlin)
10. The Man I Love (George & Ira Gershwin)
*          *          *           *         *        *        *
11. The Very Thought of You (Ray Noble)
12. A Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie)
13. The Midnight Sun originally an instrumental composed by Lionel Hampton & Sonny Burke. Lyrics were later added by Johnny Mercer.
14. Miss Otis Regrets (Cole Porter)
15. You Turn The Tables On Me (Louis Alter & Sidney D. Mitchell)
16. How High The Moon (Nancy Hamilton & Morgan Lewis)
17. Embraceable You (George & Ira Gershwin)
18. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? (Frank Loesser)
19. Mack The Knife (Kurt Weill/ Bertolt Brecht)
ENCORE: Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (Cole Porter)

Thoughts on The Trish Clowes Quartet – “My Iris”, 8 November 2023

Maybe it is something to do with the club. After the gig, Trish was radiant: she was happy with the performance, but she spoke about the club. She mentioned the setup, the help, the sound (thank you). Her music is not easy, and not to everybody’s taste. It requires some work and close listening, and some thought afterward. This is my favourite kind of music. 

The musicianship, of course, was splendid. The band was led by Trish Clowes on tenor sax, Ross Stanley on Hammond B3, Chris Montague on guitar, and drummer Joel Barford. 

The band’s music is about power, freedom and variety. The first thing we hear on “Brooke”, the first number of the gig, is Joel’s emphatic repeated riff, almost like a drum version of a baroque ground bass.Through most of the tunes, the mood and tempo varied, from almost frantic explosions of  sound to the soft, warm sounds of a ballad. All four of them produced an amazing range of sound. Note that this was not free jazz. They were reading the intros and heads. They did have considerable obligato freedom during other people’s solos.

Trish is an exceptional player. She seems to use her entire body to produce the sounds. There were growls, bright clear sounds and beautiful soft balladic sequences. Her up tempo solos found her playing at quite incredible speed, but it seemed to me that it always had meaning. She also announced the tunes with enough explanation, no extended anecdotes. 

Chris used his minimal stomp box set very well to provide colours appropriate to the music. He  is embedded in Trish’s writing, and if I understand correctly, was involved in the orchestration. He had some spectacular solos.

Joel also had some solos to remember. He is a very powerful drummer, but with the ability to switch to brushes and be almost lyrical in the balladic sections of some tunes. His position in the centre of the stage rather than the more usual position with us, to one side, emphasized his central drive  of the music.

And Ross. We have always anticipated with delight his arrival on organ especially, and on piano. He did not disappoint, but how he played was quite different from the standard jazz organ repertoire. I knew that the Hammond B3 was a versatile instrument, but for Trish’s music, Ross made it like a whole sound effects department. The sounds matched Trish, with howls, explosions, and most often lyrical improvisation. I just loved his work.

This all sounds very po-faced and serious. It was certainly not. Trish, Ross, Chris and Joel had a great time. So did we. So did Steve, who supplied the set list below.

The next gig will be very different: we will have Joanna Eden and the Chris Ingham Trio – “Embraceable Ella”.  Joanna is a stunning vocalist. I expect that between Joanna and Chris, the research will be immaculate  and often very funny. So come expecting the music of a great icon played and sung by wonderful musicians. 

Take care,

Dave

TRISH CLOWES MY IRIS QUARTET

SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 08/11/23

  1. Brooke (Trish Clowes)
  2. Uncle (Trish Clowes)
  3. Another One For Wayne (Trish Clowes) – a tribute to the late, great Wayne Shorter. Included eferences to ‘Nefertiti’ by Shorter (from the Miles Davis album of the same name).
  4. Ashford Days (Ross Stanley) – a tribute to the late British Jazz pianist John Taylor
  5. The Ness (Trish Clowes)
  6. Don’t Wait (Trish Clowes)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. A View with a Room (Trish Clowes)
  2. Truth Teller (Trish Clowes)
  3. Into The Air (Trish Clowes)
  4. Amber (Trish Clowes)
  5. Not My Usual Type (Chris Montague)
  6. Free To Fall (Trish Clowes)

Thoughts on The Josh Kemp Quartet: “A Love Supreme” – 25 October 2023

Let us start with words from Steve Jordan, who supplied the setlist:

“As Elvin Jones said: ‘If you want to know who John Coltrane was, you have to know A Love Supreme.’

So all respect to the genius who was John Coltrane but also to the musicians who performed it on Wednesday evening at Fleece Jazz. They did it full justice and more and not a sheet of music in sight!

No sign of nerves but of intense respect for the wonder and beauty of the magnificent jazz suite that is A Love Supreme.  For 35 minutes, they took us to a higher level and transported us away.”

Steve said that the band was not reading a note for the suite. What they were reading were the projections of Coltrane’s words in his own hand as they rolled up the screen, and playing the music to the words. I talk about musicians listening: but the intensity with which they listened for the suite was palpable: we felt it. They looked drained when the suite concluded. What a special happening at the club, not to be forgotten.

Josh Kemp (of course on tenor sax) had produced an excellent programme for us. He was beautifully supported by Gareth Williams on piano, Dave Manington on bass and Tristan Maillot on drums. It was particularly nice to see Gareth and Tristan after far too long. 

The first set was music that Coltrane would have played, and three songs by Josh. I particularly liked “Effervescence”,  which Kemp wrote for his dad. Its 5/4 up-tempo rhythm gave one a good impression of his father’s personality. I have a private recording of his “The Angel of the North” from the last time Josh was here. I love the tune, and found my self silently singing the melody.

The second set was mostly “A Love Supreme”, followed by two happy numbers to break the intensity of the suite. It  was a great programme, but the suite will stand in the memory.

A word about the projections. I thought that they would take the attention away from the music. I was wrong. They were essential for the suite, and were integral to the fourth section. In the first section they were nice, each connected in some way to the tune being played. In Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” there were some steps in the projections.

On the 8th of November, the powerful young saxophonist Trish Clowes will be with us. She is supported by Ross Stanley on piano, Chris Montague on Guitar and Joel Barford on drums. This is a top class group. They will be presenting music from Trish’s highly acclaimed project “My Iris”. It will be a great one.

Take care,

Dave

JOSH KEMP QUARTET: JOHN COLTRANE – A LOVE SUPREME

SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 25/10/23

  1. Happenstance (Josh Kemp)
  2. Effervescence (Josh Kemp)
  3. Giant Steps (John Coltrane)
  4. It’s Easy To Remember, But So Hard To Forget (John Coltrane)
  5. The Angel of the North (Josh Kemp)
  6. My Shining Hour (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. A Love Supreme (John Coltrane):

Part 1: Acknowledgement

Part II: Resolution

Part III: Pursuance

Part IV: Psalm

  1. You Go To My Head (J. Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie)

        ENCORE: Mach 6 (Josh Kemp)

Thoughts on The Andrew Cleyndert Quartet – “Eclectricity” – 11 October 2023

Thoughts on The Andw Cleyndert Quartet - "Electricity"  - 11 October 2023

What, no Drums? The four instumruments had much more clarity and presence than with a drummer. Even with the individual presence, the group sounded together. That is interesting considering that the piano and guitar have roughly the same pitch range and fought each other as sometimes happens: it can be a sound guy’s nightmare to provide them with clarity.

It was really great to see and hear Andrew Cleyndert lead the group on bass. His pianist was Mark Edwards, Martin Shaw played Flugel throughout, with the trumpet firmly on its stand. Colin Oxley is a favourite guitarist. This band has been around for a decade now, and though Mark was an early deputy, they listened hard and had great unity. 

Colin had some great solos, but I was interested in his accompaniment. Rhythm guitar is one of those things that you don’t notice until it goes away, and then you really miss it. Colin kept it at just the right level. If you chose to focus on him accompanying, his choice of chord seemed to be controlled by his listening to the soloist. A piano, which is a percussive instrument, seems more forward in accompaniment.

Mark is a superb pianist. He hasn’t been with us since he was with Ben Castle back in the Fleece pub. Mark uses the whole piano, even using the soft pedal to change the piano’s timbre. He is man of power, like McCoy Tyner. His accompaniment was excellent.

I have loved Martin’s work for many years. Chatting, he described himself as just a guy who plays for other guys. He didn’t mention that he was also continuously on call for that, and that he does session work with all that demands. Wednesday was flugel playing at its best, leaving the trumpet and Harmon mute lonely on the floor.

And our leader? Andrew’s essentials (pitch, technique, solid beat) are perfect, of course. But it is wonderful to hear the result of his musical thinking, which demands things like top range to bottom range twice in an up-beat bar. He put together, it seems on the fly, an excellent programme (see Steves set list below) with lots of variation of tempo and feel. There was a lot of music from a range of latin vibes. Everything had a common feel as being from this band at this time. 

It was a very enjoyable gig. 

You need to know about a special gig coming up on Wednesday 25 October. Josh Kemp is giving us an evening of the “Love Supreme” side of John Coltrane. He is bringing Gareth Williams on piano, Dave Manington on bass and Tristan Maillot on drums, and some remarkable visuals. I hope to see you there.

THE ANDREW CLEYNDERT QUARTET: “ECLECTRICITY” 

SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 11/2023

  1. Two Little Pearls (Oscar Pettiford)/Unrequited (Brad Mehldau) 
  2. One Hundred Ways (Kathy Wakefield)
  3. Valse Triste (Jean Sibelius) also adapted by Wayne Shorter on The Soothsayer
  4. So Tender (Keith Jarrett)
  5. A Felicidade (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
  6. Secret Love (Sammy Fain/Paul Francis Webster)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. Você Que Não Vem (Toninho Horta
  2. Ojoe de Rojo (Cedar Walton)
  3. Answer Me (Gerhard Winkler)/ Dexter’s Tune (Randy Newman). ‘Answer Me’ was originally titled Mutterlein with German lyrics. Contemporary recordings with English lyrics by Frankie Laine and David Whitfield topped the singles chart in 1953. ‘Dexter’s Tune’ was from the film ‘Awakenings’.
  4. Song of the Sabia (Antonio Carlos Jobim) arranged by Cedar Walton
  5. Hamp’s Blues (Hampton Hawes)
  6. Come Dance With Me (Eddie Harris
  7. ENCORE: Danny Boy (Trad.)

Thoughts on The Jo Harrop Quartet + Nigel Price 27 September 2023

 

As well as doing the setlist below, Steve Jordan has made the following comment about the gig: “Jo Harrop was a great hit with the audience, myself included, with her seductive phrasing and warm delivery – one of the very best jazz vocalists that I have ever heard.  Of course, this was all complimented superbly  by the other musicians especially Paul Edis’s extraordinary pianism and Nigel Price’s mellifluous guitar-playing.  A special mention also to Simon Thorpe who never disappoints.”

I agree.

One of the trials of doing publicity is hunting for information about people. it helps if you have the right name. We were given Peter Adams for the drummer, could find nothing. His name is Peter Adam Hill, and there is lots out there. So there should be. Peter played the room beautifully – he is an honest listening musician and I would like to see him back again . He made Nigel grin trading riffs. Apologies, Peter, about the misnaming.

I should also add that Simon was a very last minute dep, That is still magic to me. I was expecting a difficult sound check. It took, as part of their rehearsal, about 5 minutes. Nobody commented on the sound. I got it right. There is a trick to this: make your ears do their research before the gig. In this case it was a real pleasure.

Highlights? To start, the programme design. It was varied in tempo and mood, and showed off Jo’s range of tone and sensibility. The contrast between “Ain’t Got Nothing but the Blues”, which had a lovely growl to it, the sweetness of “Our Love is Here To Stay”, and the up-beat “Secret Love” showed off that range. Jo is a great lyricist. Her collaborations with Paul, Hannah Vasanth and Natalie Williams were most enjoyable. 

During the rehearsal, Nigel took a moment to introduce the other instrumentalists to “Four On Six”, which they played at the start of the second set. “Brilliant” said the chap sitting next to the sound check. Indeed it was.  Their accompaniment was great, and Jo gave the lads lots of room to blow all through the evening.  She had one tune with just Paul, and one with just Nigel. You do that and you have nowhere to hide, In fact, those tunes were stunning collaborations.

Our next gig is on the 11th of October, and what a crew! Andrew Cleyndert leads on bass,  Mark Edwards on piano, Martin Shaw on trumpet and flugelhorn and Colin Oxley on guitar. it will be a feast for their and our soul.

Take care, 

Dave

JO HARROP QT PLUS NIGEL PRICE 

SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 27/09/23

  1. How Deep Is the Ocean? (Irving Berlin) Performed as an instrumental before Jo Harrop joined the band
  1. Easy To Love (Cole Porter)
  2. Short Story (Paul Edis/Kate Edis)
  3. Time After Time (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn)
  4. Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues (Duke Ellington)
  5. Our Love Is Here To Stay (Gershwin)
  6. You’ll Never Be Lonely in Soho (Edis/Harrop)
  7. Charade (Henry Mancini) from the film of the same name
  8. No Moon At All (Red Evans/David Mann)

*          *          *           *         *       *        *

  1. Four On Six (Wes Montgomery) Performed as an instrumental before Jo Harrop, once again, joined the band
  2. Red Mary Janes and A Brand New Hat (Jo Harrop, Hannah Vasanth, Natalie Williams)
  3. If Ever I Would Leave You (Lerner/Loewe)
  4. East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon (Brooks Bowman)
  5. The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants (Jo Harrop, Hannah Vasanth)
  6. Early Autumn (Woody Herman
  7. Secret Love (Sammy Fain/Paul Francis Webster) – as sung by Doris Day in the film, Calamity Jane
  8. Only Spring Will Decide (Paul Edis/Jo Harrop)
  9. On The Street Where You Live (Lerner/Loewe)
  10. Fine and Mellow (Billie Holiday)
  11. ENCORE: It’s That Old Devil Moon (Burton Lane/E.Y. Harburg)

Thoughts on Loz Speyer’s “Time Zone” – 13 September 2023

 

Thoughts on Loz Speyer’s “Time Zone”, 13 September 2023

The earlier writeup for this gig made me expect something different and original, and I was not disappointed (you can see that writeup here). Loz Speyer gave us a programme which varied from fun to profound. He writes with freedom in the chording and time signatures, and uses a wide variety of rhythms. The rhythms came mostly from the Cuban tradition, where Loz spent some of his life.

“Lost at Sea” was a memorial for the dead from boat crossings around the world. It was very affecting. There were shocks of pitch, chording and volume changes that got to you. The quiet but dissonant quiet periods and the heavier sections were evocative of what the boats were facing.

Loz wanted us to get up and dance for one number. Our audience? Perhaps not. The last number, “Dalston Carnival” almost did it: it was joyous. Friedrich Nietzsche’s comment, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” transports into Cuban as “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Fat”, another joyous song. 

What a fascinating use of time signatures, Loz has. There was lots of 4/4 and a bit of 3/4, but 11/16 takes a chorus to get into. But then is just felt right in the song. There were a couple of 10/8 (or 2*5/4?) tunes as well.

The excellent crew were Loz on trumpet and flugel, Martin Hathaway on sax and bass clarinet, Chris Allard  on guitar, Dave Manington on bass, Satin Singh on congas and Anmol Mohara on drums. If I had to pick up one thing from the excellent work of them all, I would choose Anmol  and Satin who had a couple of trading 4s and 2s which were delightful.

Thanks to Miles’ daughter for the set list, setting and rolling cables, helping with everything else, and suffering listening to my anecdotes.

On Wednesday 27 September, the wonderful Jo Harrop will be leading a tribute to great voices in jazz. If you have not heard her before, you have been missing a fine and flexible singer with a deep musical understanding of the songs. Her normal quartet has Paul Edie on piano, Jihad Darwish on bass and Peter Adams on drums, but for us she has added our good friend and amazing guitarist, Nigel Price. Don’t miss it.

Setlist for Loz Speyer’s “Time Zone” – 13 September 2023

All songs by Loz Speyer.

1. Stratosphere

2. Now is Always Different

3. Mood Swings

4. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Fat

5. Guannapacharignero (I think)

……………..

6. Checkpoint Charlie

7. Bilingual

8. Lost at Sea

9. Crossing the Line

10. Dalston Carnival

Thoughts on Five-Way Split, 23 August 2023

The pandemic was extremely hard on artists of all kinds: theatre, on and off the stage, for example. It was very difficult for musicians, but many of them found good ways to use the time. One of the best of these was the genesis and work that produced Five-Way Split. Quentin Collins (trumpet and flugel), Vasilis Xenopoulos (tenor sax), Rob Barron (piano), Máyás Hofecker (double bass) and Matt Home (drums) created the band. They wrote music for it, recorded it, and over time produced an excellent CD of  their own tunes, and some standards. 

They  played for us last Wednesday. What a delight not to see music stands! In fact, Rob wanted the piano front off, and asked for the music stand that sits on the open piano. He looked at it for a minute, and realized that they knew the music, so the stand was put away. What was magical was the combination of great unity and precision of the five coupled with the freedom to improvise in such a lyrical way.

The standard of writing was very high throughout the gig. The first number, Vasilis’s tribute to Wayne Shorter, “Out of Waynes Bag”,  brought us into the heart of the band’s music. 

Arranging is a subtle art, and the band is very good at it. Solos flowed out of the heads beautifully. Quentin’s solo with the Harmon mute in “All The Way” was a highlight for me, but every solo shone. I like to listen to the accompaniments to solos, and these were very good, lots of careful listening. But the solos grabbed my attention pretty well totally.

Thanks to Steve Jordan for producing the setlist below. He agreed, a great gig, thank you , guys,

The next gig is on Wednesday, 13 September. Loz Speyer’s “Time Zone” will have us travel with Cuban music around the world. It will be grand, don’t miss it.

Take care,

Dave

FIVE-WAY SPLIT

SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 23/08/23

  1. Out of Wayne’s Bag (Xenopoulos)
  2. Lingua Franca (Barron) 
  3. Mr Birthday Waltz (Collins)
  4. Asymphonatic (Collins)
  5. Evidently (Barron)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. All The Way (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sam Cahn) – a song made famous by Frank Sinatra in 1957 which was introduced in the film The Joker Is Wild.  This arrangement was by Rob Barron.
  2. Sunday in New York (Peter Nero and Carroll Coates ) – a song written for the 1963 movie of the same name. It was sung by Mel Tormé in the film which starred Jane Fonda.
  3. San Sebastian (Xenopoulos) – named after the city in the Basque region of Spain
  4. Theme For Ernie (Fred Lacey) – covered by John Coltrane amongst others
  5. Encounter (Mike LeDonne) – based on the chord changes of Love for Sale
  6. ENCORE: Bittersweet (Sam Jones)

Thoughts on Simon Spillett and Pete Long present “The Music of the Jazz Couriers” 09/08/23

Dave Lyons was absent from this gig and is already aware that he missed a corker.  We will see you soon, Dave, and wish you well. This was a standout gig of the season for which I have written a review built around the setlist.

Last night, we had a fine quintet of musicians under the co-leadership of Simon Spillett and Pete Long, each one an uncompromising powerhouse on tenor sax, paying tribute to The Jazz Couriers, the UK band that emerged in the late 1950s. Spillett is well-known as the biographer and keeper of the flame of the great tenorist, Tubby Hayes, who formed one half of the frontline of the Jazz Couriers along with Ronnie Scott. Spillett’s close attention to the Hayes legacy has influenced his own playing stance and we were honoured (yes!) to hear what seemed to my ears to be the living embodiment of Tubby Hayes, who died at the absurdly early age of 38 fifty years ago this year. Alongside, we had award-winning repertory bandleader, Pete Long, taking the role of Ronnie Scott, dazzling us with solos galore and flashing a knowing grin at the audience each time, as if to say, “Beat that!”  The rhythm section was stunning and versatile in complimenting the two strong tenorists extremely well, but also as a trio when Spillett and Long took a well-earned rest during some numbers.  Our pianist was Pete Billington, depping effortlessly and with a beautiful lyricism on many numbers; Alec Dankworth, a truly world-class double bass player who worked the whole length of the instrument and left me reeling each time he took a lead; the wizard that is Pete Cater showing us on many occasions why he is so much in-demand with his controlled pyrotechnics on drums.

The band kicked off with two hard and fast numbers to take us through a rollercoaster ride of emotions to set the scene: the eponymous (as Simon said, “imaginatively titled”) The Jazz Couriers’ followed by the first ever recorded track of the band, Through the Night Roared the Overland Express’, with both tenorists creating a wall of sound as the rhythm section worked busily almost just to keep up.

Bringing the tempo and volume down just a shade, we had Southern Suite Parts One and Three’, a mini masterpiece of big band scoring, written by Hayes and here adapted for quintet, which was originally written for a BBC broadcast.

Throughout both sets, the two tenorists took it in turns to present anecdotes on the background to each number and its place in the career of The Jazz Couriers, as well as the development of post-war British Jazz generally.  If this sounds dry, think again. Both Spillett and Long are charismatic performers gifted with a dry observational wit. Simon has immense skill in making the history of jazz come alive, using his infectious passion to explain how British Jazz after the war, stuck in the dance band genre, was languishing behind Swing era American Jazz, until the likes of Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Jimmy Deuchar and a few others arrived on the scene.

As if on cue, the band treat us to the calming, melodic Yesterdays’ by Jerome Kern. The tenors state the theme, then Long takes an excellent solo and soon after Billington’s groove-laden solo leads into an ‘out’ chorus by the two tenors. The first set concludes with Tubby Hayes’ quickstep arrangement of Gershwin’s Love Walked In’.

While the double act of Spillett and Long pays homage to the music of the Jazz Couriers, they are fully aware that they are there to entertain. The audience are kept amused throughout by banter and quips; Long is whips up the audience until they roar and exuberant cheers and cries from both Spillett and Long push the band to ever-higher states of euphoria.  This stuff is not for the faint of heart!

The second set drives from the outset with the Silveresque Mirage, a 1958 composition by Tubby Hayes, already showing his ease with the hard-bop genre.  Following on from this is Victor Feldman’s ‘Karen’, dedicated to his niece, which originally featured Tubby Hayes on tenor in Feldman’s big band. Feldman’s vibraphone was an inspiration to Tubby, so much so that one night, when Feldman was late arriving for a club date at the Flamingo club, Hayes took over and played an impromptu version of Bags Groove on vibes to an astonished crowd! Within months, Tubby had begun to play the instrument on his own gigs, astounding everyone.  Simon took barely hidden delight in relating the inspiration for a Jazz Couriers favourite and perfect slice of hard bop penned by Tubby, The Serpent’.  The Hayes composition is one which could easily pass for the work of Horace Silver and was allegedly dedicated to the outsized manhood of jazz promoter, Bix Curtis.  The pace is brought down again with a ballad medley of ‘Moonlight in Vermont’, with Long leading on tenor before segueing into ‘But, Beautiful’ with Spillett taking the lead; both tenorists show how they can play sensitively and sensuously.  Jimmy Deucar’s steaming ‘Suddenly last Tuesday’, a reworking of Get Happy, is officially the last number of the set and showcases the talents of each member of the band, not least those of the rhythm section: Pete Billington drawing calls of encouragement and excitement from Long; Alec Dankworth plucking the bass at an impressive pace and Pete Cater excelling and matching the near superhuman stamina of Long and Spillett.

The band had worked themselves ragged but gave us the encore we demanded: a danceband-era workout by Tubby Hayes called ‘Take Your Partners For The Blues’.  At the beginning of the gig, Pete Long quipped that bands only play twice at the Fleece, once on the way up and once on the way down and then followed with “It’s good to be back”.  He really was joking – our appreciative audience went home glowing and buzzing. For some of them, including an older couple that I sat next to, this brought back vivid memories of the Flamingo Club and Ronnie Scott’s at Gerard St when this reviewer was just a toddler!

In two weeks’ time, on Wednesday 23rd August, we welcome another quintet, Five-Way Split. Co-led by two great musicians, Quentin Collins on trumpet and flugelhorn and Vasilis Xenopoulos on tenor sax, with the golden touch of Rob Barron on piano, virtuosic bassist Mátyás Hofecker and rock-solid drummer Matt Home, Five-Way Split presents a sound that respects the tradition of the hard-bop era whilst also bringing it up to date for today’s audience.  With an extensive repertoire of hip material by greats like Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton and Horace Silver, expect a night of the best swinging and soulful music.

Take care,

Steve Jordan

Thoughts on Dave O’Higgins’/Rob Luft’s “Pluto”

What a wonderful gig, loved by our listening audience. They really do listen.

You learn something new every gig. A bigsby is a lever on a guitar that can raise or lower its pitch by a bit. Rob Luft make beautiful use of his. He added timbre to individual notes as well as using it for tremolo  or other effects. Rob was one of the leaders of the band. What a stunning guitarist he is. He writes well too, see Steve’s setlist entry below, “Gayetski”. I loved watching him use the bigsby and magically switching from plectrum to fingering. It is not often an intro gets hoots and applause, but two of his did.

The other leader was Dave O’Higgins, and it was such a pleasure to have him back with us. His tenor style suited the very different styles of the Coltrane and Monk music that they played. His blues “One for Six”, about his residence at the 606 club was my pick of the evening. Like on all the tunes, everyone got a chance to blow. It just seemed to me to be the cherry on a very good cake.

The two leaders shared the announcement mic with stories about the songs, very interesting and often very funny. I won’t say that they could have a career in stand-up comedy, but they were very entertaining.

Ross Stanley was trapped in Spain, so on the very morning, Jim Watson got a request to play piano for us. The music we had was far from trivial, but Jim handled it with aplomb. He had to read, of course, which from time to time left his accompaniment a little stylistically different from his colleagues. His solos were grand, and met with loud approval from our audience.

Luke Fowler is embedded in the band. You could see him concentrating, often with a big smile, on the soloist. But also, on the accompaniment. There is a real rapport between him and the drummer. He showed us again what a fine soloist he is, but he is so strong as the heartbeat of the band.

There is a very sensitive side to the drumming of Rod Youngs. Like Luke, he was watching each member of the band like a hawk. I do love a drummer that plays the room so accurately. He had a couple of spectacular solos. His use of brushes (both ends!) is amazing.

That left the sound to talk about. We had rigged micing all of the instruments except the drums, with talk mics for Dave and Rob. All but Luke had fold-back speakers. We ended up with the only visible mic was the shared talk mic. The band was totally acoustic except for a tiny boost for the piano. The monitors were still in place, but Daves was unplugged. It sounded lovely.

The next gig has Simon Spillett and Pete Long doing the Jazz Couriers two tenors thing. Rob Barron will be on piano, Alec Dankworth on bass and Pete Cater on drums. We would love to see you with us.

Take care

Dave

O’HIGGINS & LUFT: “PLUTO” 

SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 26/07/23

  1. Pluto (O’Higgins)
  2. Gayetski (Luft) – a composition dedicated to recently deceased, Astrud Gilberto, Stan Getz and Astrud’s husband, João Gilberto, all of whom famously collaborated on The Girl From Ipanema. Getz, was born Stanley Gayetski; his grandparents were Ukrainian Jewish refugees who migrated to Whitechapel in the East End of London to escape the anti-Jewish pogroms.
  3. Vague Recollection (O’Higgins)
  4. ‘Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk)
  5. Jean De Fleur (Grant Green)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. South Wind (Luft) 
  2. One For The Six (O’Higgins)
  3. Naima (John Coltrane) 
  4. Giant Steps GTI (John Coltrane)
  5. ENCORE: Green Chimneys (Thelonious Monk)

Thoughts on Sarah Jane Morris – “Something Old, Something New” – 12 July 2023

This gig was a joy. They came, they sang, they conquered. Sarah Jane Morris had all her power, and we loved her close communication with the audience, who reciprocated in song themselves.

Steve’s set list is below, so I can talk about the musicians. First the newbie: we would be delighted to have Marcus Bonfanti back. He is a superbly skilled guitarist, whether finger or plectrum or steel. He had a solo on “Lovely Day” that was light, textured and really beautiful. All his solos were inventive. His accompaniment was thoughtful and interesting. As a backing vocalist, his voice provided perfect harmonies with Sarah’s voice.

Tony Rémy is simply an outstanding world class guitarist. I was surprised to see him using a capo on the first number. Tony needs a capo? What do I know?  Solo after solo, Tony’s guitar sang to us. “Up From the Sky’s” gave a whole new take on this Hendrix song.  Tony usually set the vibe, and he and Marcus  listened very closely to each other and used each other, so their accompaniment form was contrapuntal. Tony’s basso was only heard in a few numbers, but it added just the right support to the songs he sang in.

Sarah used to introduce Henry Thomas as “The Mighty”, and he still is. In the first set he played electric guitar. In the second set he also played with a fretless acoustic bass, which has a wonderful sound: softer, warmer, but just as clear as the electric. His solos on “Head and Heart” and “Lovely Day” were amazing. He is a great backing singer. I was glad of the chance to talk to Henry after the gig. His understanding of music, composition and indeed the current way of the world is quite profound. Conversations with Henry are to be treasured.

What can I say about Sarah Jane Morris that has not been said a thousand times? If you have never seen her before, she can be a bit overwhelming. There were a few such in the audience, but they soon be came like the rest, lovers of her work. She has an immense voice, a big range and lots of tonalities. The commitment she has to the music and what it means is clear. One reason she is loved is that she works so well with an audience. We were all singing in the second half, to her direction.

Our next gig will be on Wednesday 26 July, – O’Higgins & Luft will present work from their album Pluto. This is straight-ahead modern jazz in the African-American tradition, coming from the Monk and Trane lineage, but not bound to emulating it. The musicians are Dave O’Higgins Tenor sax, Rob Luft Guitar, Ross Stanley Piano, Luke Fowler Bass and Rod Youngs Drums. It will be a cracker, don’t miss it.

Take care,

Dave

SARAH-JANE MORRIS: “SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW” 

SETLIST, FLEECE JAZZ 12/07/23

All songs from the first set, as well as the encore, were written and originally sperformed by the late, great John Martyn. 

  1. Fairytale Lullaby
  2. Couldn’t Love You More
  3. Head and Heart
  4. One World
  5. Sweet Little Mystery 
  6. May You Never
  7. Over The Hill

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. On My Way To You (Morris/Remy) 
  2. Feel The Love (Morris/Remy)
  3. Imagine (John Lennon) 
  4. Lovely Day (Bill Withers)
  5. Up From The Skies (Jimi Hendrix)
  6. Piece of My Heart (Jerry Ragovoy/Bert Berns) – originally recorded by Erma Franklin, Aretha’s older sister, in 1967 but better known from the version by Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin on lead vocals.
  7. I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)
  8. ENCORE: I Don’t Wanna Know (John Martyn)