Thoughts on Art Themen Trio – 24 November 2021

Art Themen Trio, 24 November 2021

A brilliant gig at Fleece Jazz

It is such a pleasure to see the return of Art Themen in trio form (or in any form). It seems to me that his playing gets better and better with age. He is a great story teller on both sax and mic. This was a thoroughly entertaining gig. Three lovely guys playing at being at odds, with George Double as the Thain. Pete Whittaker and Art were villeins. 

Their CD, at is excellent, and we even get a mention in the liner notes, but oh, live jazz is better. 

The programme the trio gave us was varied in tempo and vibe. We started off with Ben Webster’s “Hanky Panky”. It got a somehow sexy military intro, and showed Art at full speed. “Willow Weep for Me” had Art in beautiful ballad mode, leaving lots of space for the tone and the story to be heard. Art pulls all the timbres out of the tenor. 

Pete had a lovely soulful solo on “Willow…”. I really like his left hand bass all through the gig.

“I’m an Old Cow Hand”?  Is this Johnny Mercer tune appropriate for a jazz gig? It is when this trio plays it. Great fun, with George’s horse hooves and solo on this one a delight. 

This was a gig to savour, with vibe and tempo changes even within a tune. An example is “Brahms I Think”, a pastiche by Art. We had swing, tango, rock to name a few. The Brahms theme is in my head but I cannot remember its name.

So we move from one great gig to another in a months time. Alan Barnes is bringing a super sextet to us on Wednesday 22 December. Alan, Karen Sharp, Robert Fowler on saxes, David Newton on Piano, Simon Thorpe on bass and Clark Tracey on drums. Reserve soon for this one.

Take care,


Thoughts on Alina Bzhezhinska’s Hip Harp – 12 November 2021

This was a marvellous gig. But first the scene needs setting.

Visualise our stage from your left to right. You will first see Joel Prime with his extensive percussion kit. Joel played a duo with Alina the last time she was with us. Then Alina Bzhezhinska behind a concert harp, sitting so you could just see her feet on the pedals. Behind her and a little to the right electric bassist Mikele Montolli stood. To the right of Alina, Jay Phelps played his trumpet on most of the tunes. On the far right (not that far, not a very big stage) drummer Adam Teixeira held court. We had stereo percussion.

We started off with “Soul Vibrations” (I think by Sun Ra), with the quartet. This was a lovely blast of a sg, with a strong third beat that had us into the band in  4 bars. There were duos between Alina and the two percussionists, reminiscent of her first gig with us where she played to amazing sets with Joel, as the other musicians were blocked in traffic.

Alina’s “For Carol” was next up, with Jay using his Harmon mute. We haven’t seen Jay in too long, and I had forgotten how good he is.

The set finished with “Los Cabballos“ (the horses) by Carlos Chávez. Can music be onomatopoeic? You could hear the horses throughout the song. 

Here I am looking for highlights of a top class evening, when every song had something to say. Everyone had solos and they were all grand. We finished with “Action Line”, (Ray Davies?).Both Alina’s and Jay’s solos were memorable. Please can this group come to us again so that a much larger audience will see them outside of the London Jazz Festival.

On Wednesday the 24th of November, the legend that is Art Themen will  be with us, Art on tenor, Steve Whittaker on Hammond and George Double on drums. Do join  us.

Take care,


Thoughts on Hexagonal – 27 October 2021

Thoughts on  Hexagonal , 29 October 2021

Three superb horn players were with us on Wednesday. Hexagonal’s music involves complex rhythms, often different for each horn. Their timing and intensity was, to my ears, perfect. The sound was really exciting. We had Greg Heath on Tenor and Soprano,  Jason Yarde on Alto and Baritone, and Graeme Flowers on Trumpet and Flugel. Greg was the band’s announcer.

John Donaldson arranged the music for the band. He is a formidable pianist. It was great to have bassist Matt Ridley back. Drummer Tristan Banks got caught in traffic and people glueing themselves to roads, so he arrived after the sound check so he didn’t have a chance to set his levels. All three of these guys were a delight to hear. 

The music was amazing, very exciting, varied and often fun. This is what you would expect, I suppose, as it was all related to two great musicians and composers, McCoy Tyner and Bheki Mseleku. I had the pleasure of hearing McCoy in New York a few years ago and the power was overwhelming. They opened with  Tyner’s “Walk Spirit Talk Spirit”. You were hit by just the horns and a surprising and wonderful vibe before the rhythm section came in to support it. Beautiful solos all round.

Mseleku’s lovely ballad, “My Passion” gave John a  chance to display delicacy and intensity at the same time. Again the solos were captivating.

Just one more. Jason Yarde told us about his “Hill Climbing on the Tyner side”. He had two different compositions played simultaneously, great fun to listen to.

Lovely gig. Greatly looking forward to Alina in two weeks time.

Take care,


Thoughts on The Clark Tracey Sextet, 25 September 2021

One of the odd things about jazz is that often, the more deps the better. Quentin Collins (trumpet and flugelhorn) was hired for the band in time for his name to be published. Trombonist James Wade Sired  and pianist Matt Carter were the reps on the night. Tom Ridout on alto and tenor saxes and recorder, James Owston on bass and of course, Clark Tracey on drums were on the original list. So you might expect their rehearsal and soundcheck to be interesting. 

It was: interesting and fun, and intense and jolly. And it led to a really great gig. 

Clark has got to be one of our very top drummers (as well his great arranging and composing). His soloing is beautiful, often melodic, always fresh and varied. He is a superb accompanist, which was his primary role for this band. There was one spectacular solo in the last number, Blakey’s “New World”. Much of the music was from the standard repertoire. There were a couple of Clark’s. He apologised for the pun in his “Mark Nightingale Sings”. We had a section from Stan Tracey’s “Devil’s Acre”. 

Tpm Ridout supplied us with a starry production of his “Vega”, There was something very special in the first set when the and played a Welsh “Lament”, with Tom on recorder. The rhythms were complex, the band weaving through the central recorder voice. It was just so beautiful. 

The first sound we heard was the horn chorus from Quentin, Tom and James D.R, on the up-beat “One by One” by Wayne Shorter. I am sure of the title and composer because Clark is one of the few leaders that tells his audience what and who by. Thank you.

So for the rest of the evening, we were spellbound by what we heard. The tone and improvisational complexity of Quentin’s playing, whether on trumpet or flugel, James Darcy Sired’s  fine trombone playing, and James Owston’s speed, musicality and movement on bass. As an improvising accompanist and as a soloist, Matt Carter was excellent.

As the happy audience went home, I noted that Clark will be back with us for our Christmas gig. Hoorah, and hoorah again if any of these musicians were to grace our stage again.

Take care,


Still Smiling from The David Newton Trio, 25 August 2021

Sound check? Rehearsals? Detailed gig planning? With guys this good whose listening is phenomenal, none of this is necessary. A little discussion on the patio and hey were of one mind.

We had Steve Brown on drums, Adam King on bass and the masterful David Newton on piano. 

 It is hard to describe how good this gig was.

We had not seen Adam King in some time, and never in a trio, where all three are so exposed. His use of the whole instrument at speed with perfect intonation was wonderful. Steve Brown was usually with us accompanying  a singer. Last night he showed us the full range of his skills. And then there was the pianist. 

Many pianists, even great ones, often use the left hand for rhythm and chords. Not David Newton, whose left hand is just as powerful and inventive as the right. Ideas flowed. Tempi switched. Always the right number of notes (as Stan Tracey once said).

The evening started with Hayman and Green’s Out of Nowhere, with the Goldfinger theme used throughout the song. Adam had a solo at speed across the whole fingerboard, amazing to watch. Steve cat the vibe in an instant, and grinned from ear to ear listening to David solo.  The Burwell ballad “Sweet Lorraine” Was lovely. My favourite ballad was “Estate”, Italian for summer. Bruno Martino wrote a song about a hatred of summer because of a lost lover; from the translated lyric, “the snow covers everything and there is peace”. The English lyrics are quite upbeat. David seemed to have the Itallian feel. The song was deeply emotional. 

He played a song without introduction that we had some fuss identifying. “Back Home Again in ???” North Dakota? No. Manitoba? No, that’s in Canada.  Henley and MacDonald’s “Back Home Again in Indiana featured a lovely brush solo by Steve.  

That was the other things about the gig. The solos from all three were melodic. They were having such a good time so we did too. To have our music back was great. To have it back with this trio was amazing.

Take care,


Thoughts on our first gig in eons, it seems

I should have written this two weeks ago. Stunning gig.


What a wonderful way to start off Fleece Jazz after a year and a half of no live jazz. And independently of that, this gig was a cracker!

I was so enthralled that I forgot I was supposed to take notes. I can say that Cannonball would have been very pleased. What they did was paint a picture of the depth of the man as well as the music he played and wrote. And of course, the musicianship was superb.

One way of judging a band is to see if they listen to each other. Last night the listening was palpable. It was the first gig in quite a while for them too, though you would never know it. The first set was really great. The second set was special: more free, more fun.

In the narrative, Tony paid tribute to Michael Burgess, who died last year. It was very nice of him to do so. They had known each other for 20 years.

And after a wonderful evening last night, we look forward to the apotheosis of the piano trio, with David Newton backed by Steve Brown on drums and Adam King on Bass

Take care,

The Oxley Meier Guitar Project – 6 March 2020


Wonderful, varied music, musicianship from all four musicians to die for. This evening full of fun and joy was brought to us by Nicolas Meier & Pete Oxley on lots of guitars, Raph Mizraki on basses and hand drum, and Paul Cavaciuti on drums and music stand. After the gig, you could see the audience float home, and the smiles on the faces of the musicians.

About guitars, Pete had an acoustic and a rock 6 string and a 7 string. Nicolas had 5 guitars, fretted and unfretted 12 and 6 string instruments. I have forgotten what the other one was. Raph had a standup base, fretted and unfretted electric basses. He surprised us with the hand drum.

The surprise was “Alors Hampstead”. It started with an extended duo, Paul and Raph. Raph is an amazing hand drummer. When the rest of the band came in, Raph played a fretted electric bass, Pete played the 12 string, and Nic played an unfretted 6 string. I am going to stop with the instruments..

Most of the songs were by Peter or Nicolas. Pete’s beautiful ballad, “The Gift”, with a solo by Pete which I loved, was one example of many. Nicolas’s “Frantics”, which ended the programme, was another. It was funky rock, and popped between 4/4 and 5/4. Very exciting stuff.

They made amends in the encore, with a bit of “proper jazz”: Nicolas’s “Lauder Lebsing” (I think I got the name wrong). Everybody had remarkable solos on this one. They had good fun with quotes. Raph was on the standup bass, and introduced some slap. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful gig.

No gig next week, but to follow last Friday, the next gig, Friday 20 March, had better be something special.
Filling that bill of excellence and fun will be my favourite trumpeter, Bryan Corbett. On Friday, 20 March he brings his “Hi-Fly Quintet ’59”, The music will be that of the greats of that year: Davis, Mingus, Brubeck, Coleman, Silver and many others. The first class band will be Bryan Corbett on trumpet and flugel, Chris Bowden on alto sax, Matt Ratcliffe on piano, Tom Hill on bass and Carl Hemmingsley on drums. The gig promises to supply familiar music beautifully played.

Take care,


Tim Whitehead Quartet – 28 February 2020


Again, I wasn’t there. I came to rig, and was there for the sound check/rehearsal, but had to leave before the show. All reports on the gig say it was terrific. I am very sorry I missed it.

I did get a taste in the sound check In fact the sound check is a good indicator to the enjoyability of the gig itself. First Jonathan Gee sits down at the piano and puts it through its paces. The man is full of style and flair. There was some new music for which he wanted to get the head rhythms just right. Tom Hooper, having set up his drums, had a tune, and a wallop, bloody good. Tim Whitehead has been practicing in the band room, comes in and starts a rehearsal of some of the tough stuff to play. Even in rehearsal mode, the guy is terrific, and the music is superb. Andy Hamill having had his bass and amp set up, joins in. Gerry had the sound really good by this time, It all sounds great.

Next week, the amazing guitar duo of Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier, ably supported by Raph Mizraki on bass and Paul Cavaciuti on drums. The technique and musical intelligence of all four is world class. Be prepared for woderful music and a large sense of joy and fun.
Please note that there is no gig on the 13th of March

Take care,


Georgia Mancio Quartet – 21 February 2020


This should have been called the Georgia Mancio & Kate Williams Quartet as many of the songs were co-written by the two. But perhaps that would be unfair to the wonderful accompaniment and soloing of Julie Walkington and Dave Ohm.

Georgia was on vocals/whistle/scat/sprechen-singen, Kate on piano, Julie on bass and Dave on Drums

I keep banging on about vocalists whose production, phrasing and timbre show a love of the words. In Georgia’s case it must partially be because she is a lyricist, writing lyrics for many of the songs with Kate or Alan Broadbent. There was one by Julie, and there were some standards. Some of the material was serious. but they know each other so well that there was a lot of good humour and sheer fun.

It was a stunning gig. I could write pages about the gig, and won’t do that.

Let’s take the Styne/Comdon/Green “Just In Time” which closed the first set. They played this tune joyously in at least 3 tempi. Georgia roughened her timbre for part of this, and scatted 3 choruses. Kate had an amazing solo which moved seamlessly (no space for applause) into exciting 4s with Dave.

Or consider Jobim’s “For All Of My Life”, Kate does amazing intros. It segued into Kate and Georgia’s “Finding Home”, in which Georgia spoke the lyric. Devastating..

Some serious stuff in the second set as well. People from Refugee Action – Colchester, Phillip and Elizabeth were our guests for the evening, They brought material to read, and sold all of Roberta’s marmalade. Georgia invited Elizabeth to give a short talk on RA-C’s work. The next song was a Kate/Georgia song, “We Walk”. This slow, tough song about walking from Afganistan through deserts and mountains had beautiful strong solo from Julie.

Alan and Georgia’s “Same Old Moon” was an up tempo song, more or less about Trump, very funny. Kate’s solo ran smoothly into Dave’s solo, which was hugely textured, a real tour de force.

I heard the last song in rehearsal, and laughed a lot. It was played in a whole bunch of national genres, all with appropriate languages and tempi. The ones I remember were English, Itallian, German (oompah), Portuguese, lots of others. In performance, Georgia explained that it was a resistance war cry in the languages of her heritage. It was called “Bella Ciao”, and was quite wonderful.

Thanks to a great quartet that I hope we see again soon.

Next week, 28 February, The Tim Whitehead Quartet will entertain us. Tim will be on sax, Jonathan Gee on piano, Andy Hamill on bass and Tom Hooper on drums.
“For my money, the finest tenor player in Britain today” – Andy Hamilton – Jazz Review
“‘Whitehead more than justified his growing reputation as one of Britain’s most thoughtful composers and improvisers.” – Chris Parker – The Times

Take care,

Chris Biscoe and Allison Neale: Two of a Mind – 14 February 2020


From the sound check through the entire gig, the two complementary tones of baritone and alto saxes were a delight, evoking Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond. Our band was:
Chris Biscoe on baritone sax, Allison Neale on alto sax, Jeremy Brown on bass and Matt Fishwick on drums.

The music was all pretty early, ’60s mostly. I do not understand why every alter kacker (yiddish for old person, literally it is what it sounds like) within a 100 mile radius of Stoke by Nayland was not there to hear and see this wonderful music, beautifully played throughout.

The gig opened with the 1957 Mulligan tune, “Stand Still”, which is the title track of the Mulligan/Desmond album. The tone hits you like a fine vintage wine. Two solos, alto then baritone, continued the taste.

There were lots of Mulligan tunes, but the band did not forget contemporary composers. Carmichael’s beautiful “Stardust” was given the band’s treatment, with Chris on B flat clarinet. Bass and clarinet combined to make a gorgeous intro. Jeremy had a fine solo on this one, and there was some lovely work with bass and drums. The horn solos were special.

Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are” ended the first set, again with wonderful horn solos.

Mulligan’s “Blight of the Fumblebee” was played at about the time I noticed that the popups behind the stage were wrongly placed: FLEEJAZZECE, not FLEECEJAZZ. Everyone had solos to savour on this one, Chris on the clarinet again.

The encore demanded was Mulligan’s “Line for Lyons” (not me, altoist Jimmy Lyons). Allison’s solo was lovely.

Well, it was a lovely gig. So on to next week.

Georgia Mancio sings like an angel in English, Italian and Portuguese. She scats and whistles too. Kate Williams is a consummate composer and pianist with a vocabulary all her own: rich in interest and accessible. The pair have written a special song about refugees, very appropriate as Refugee Action – Colchester are partners with us for this gig. Julie Walkington and Dave Ohm are perfect accompanists.

Do come along.

Take care,