Sarah Jane Morris and Tony Remy: Sweet Little Mysteries – 6 December 2019

“Sarah

I have written before about leaders who have a close connection to the audience. Sarah Jane Morris Is the best example of this art. Whether speaking about the music or the musicians, or singing in her inimitable style, she draws the audience to her, includes them in. This, plus world class musicianship from all four, made for a great gig.

Sarah Jane Morris was the arranger with Tony Remy on many of the songs, guitarist Tony Remy was superb, as was bassist Henry Thomas and drummer Martyn Barker. All three instrumentalists were backing singers as well.

The programme started with two songs from Sarah Jane’s repertoire. Most of the rest of the gig was dedicated to the songs of John Martyn. She ended with three more from her own repertoire.

It fascinated me that two of the songs were new to Henry and Martyn, but they picked up the key, the chords and the vibe after listening for a chorus. The listening was visible and palpable throughout.

Favourites? Maybe John Martyn’s “Solid Air”, which opened the second set. The encore was John Martyn’s “I Don’t Wanna Know About Evil”, in which Tony and Henry had superb solos, and we all joined in.

Most leaders introduce the band again at the end of the gig. Sarah Jane gave us fascinating stories about each of them. Her stories throughout the gig about John Martyn were very interesting. They added a lot to this wonderful gig.

Next week, Friday the 13, don’t be scared. You will be in the safe hands of one of the finest pianists about anywhere. The Dave Newton Trio includes Simon Thorpe on bass and Winston Clifford on drums.

Take care,
Dave

Tom Green Septet – 29 November 2019

“Tom

Tom Green’s septet gave us a wonderful gig, I don’t understand why people didn’t come in numbers. The band is young and not well known, and people are edgy about original music. Well, the musicianship was exemplary, the music was accessible, and the sound of the four horn chorus was thrilling.

We had Tom Green on trombone, James Davidson on trumpet and flugel, Tom Smith on alto and soprano saxes, Sam Miles on tenor sax, Sam James on piano, Matthew Read on bass and Dave Hamblett on drums.

What is not thrilling is loosing my notes again. I can tell you about the arrangements. Most of the tunes were written by Tom Green, and all of the arrangements and the programme order were by him. The programme order was a good mix of tempo, style and a few standards. I thought the arrangements were special.

Tom gave us the full force of the four hour chorus in unison, harmony, counterpoint and free. He arranged for just about every combination of duo. There were a lot of excellent mixtures of counterpoint and cross-rhythm. And there was room for blowing: everybody had great solo, and there were some stunning intros,

One other thing, Tom had a warm presence as leader talking to us. I hope to see this band back soon.

Next week is a special treet for Fleece Jazz, with Sarah Jane Morris and Tony Remy doing the music of John Martyn: Sweet Little Mysteries. Sarah Jane Morris vocals/arrangements, Tony Remy uitars/vocals/arrangements, Henry Thomas bass and Martyn Barker drums, Do not miss this force of nature and a stunning trio of instrumentalists.

Take care,
Dave

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Paul Higgs: Pavane – 22 November 2019

“Paul

Talk to non- trumpet-playing musicians about Paul Higgs, and they say he is the best, as well as a very clever arranger. They should add that he has great contact with the audience, and he and his band have great fun, so we do too. He presented a lovely programme with a band that sometimes sounded much bigger than it was, and sometimes small and delicate. This was an evening of gentle (with one exception) but complex arrangements, all by Paul, and some of his own tunes.

The band was Paul Higgs on trumpet, Andy Watson on guitar, Chris Ingham on piano, Jerome Davies on bass, Natalie Rozario on cello and George Double on drums.

Let’s deal with the exception first. Paul’s work had been swinging, accurate, lovely tone, but not virtuosic all evening till this point. He told the story about the BBC continuity announcer who had trouble saying Rimsky Korsakov’s name, so he practiced hard, and then, live said, “And now, Rimsky Korsakov’s Bum of the Flightlebee”. So guess what came next?

Talk about virtuosity from all of them! Paul’s fingers pushing valves faster than one could see. Natalie’s super fast work, making the cello sound like a swarm of angry bees as well as high speed accompaniment; the others all accurate, of course, and grinning at each other’s work.

The first number of the gig was Paul’s “Pavane”, a lovely gentle dance. Somehow the cello made the quintet sound like a small concert orchestra, all of the timbres present. It was followed by Sammy Fain’s “Secret Love”, in which Paul had an excellent solo (one of many), and George showed his imagination with the brushes.

I wish I could read my writing on the sixth number, “Baren something”, because Natalie had a superb extended intro and solo on that one.

Gerry ran the second set, and I sat down, unfortunately in the dark. I wrote something for each tune, but can read about 10% of it. So I know that Chris, Jerome and Andy had fine solos, but cannot tell you on which numbers. A pity, because the whole gig was a wonderful experience. This was a band with a special sound, musicians of the top drawer enjoying each other’s work, fine arrangements, and lots of fun. Find the CD on Paul’s website, do.

Next week, the stage gets bigger to accommodate the Tom Green Septet. Press comments:
“Some of the most exciting original music I’ve heard for a long time” Dame Cleo Laine.
“A kaleidoscope of harmony that is not only phenomenally skilful, but absorbing and endlessly entertaining, too” – Dave Gelly, **** .
We will have Tom Green trombone, James Davidson trumpet/flugel, Tom Smith alto sax, Sam Miles tenor sax, Sam James piano. Matthew Read bass, and Dave Hamblett drums.
Do join us.

Take care,
Dave

Nicolas Meier World Group – 15 November 2019

“Nicolas

I had to go home at half time, not very well, so I missed the second set. The first set was bloody marvelous. I didn’t bring my notes home, so this is written from memory.

The musicians were:
Nicolas Meier, who only brought 3 guitars, one unfretted, this time;
Richard Jones superb on the violin;
Kevin Glasgow who played electric bass, solid and a super listener;
Demi Garcia brilliant on percussion.

The programme took us around the world with beautifully arranged music. The tunes were mostly written by Nicolas in the first set. Nicolas is good on the talk mic, giving us information about the tunes. I heard music from 6 continents in the first set. They included a stunning evocaation of tan Australian desert, California clearly calling, the cross rhythms of sub-Saharan Africa – you get the idea.

Musicianship and communication of this level is rare. The solos were wonderful. I could pick out one that Demi did, if I had my notes. Sorry if you missed the gig, but not as sorry as I am, because I did hear how good this group is.

Next week, 22 November, the excellent trumpeter, Paul Higgs, who last appeared for us as a pianist as well as a trumpeter, brings his gently atmospheric melange of classical, jazz and new age vignettes. The sextet is Paul Higgs on trumpet, Andy Watson on guitar, Chris Ingham on Piano, Jerome Davies on bass. Natalie Rozario on cello and George Double on drums. This will be a lovely evening.

Take care
Dave

Simon Spillett Quartet – 8 November 2019

“Simon

A most enjoyable band played for us on Friday. Top musicianship, great communication with the audience and among themselves, good programme and arrangements. I loved the contrasts in speed (and how!) and timbre. So thanks to:
Simon Spillett on tenor sax, Rob Barron on piano. Alec Dankworth on bass and Spike Wells on drums.

The first tune sets the evening’s tone. Tubby Hayes’ “Royal Ascot” was played at Formula 1 speed. Stunning solos by Simon and Alec on this one. It was followed by Schwartz’s “Alone Together”. Rob had a solo that thrilled us, and Spikes 4s with Simon were special.

Then the tone in two senses, timbre and style changed. I love Wolf’s “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most”, with the wonderful lyrics of Fran Landesman. Simon’s tone was warm and sweet for his solo on this one, such a contrast to the tough tone in Royal Ascot.

The set ended with Clark Terry’s “Opus Ocean”. We were back to F1 speeds, with a terrific solo by Spike.

And the second set got even better. The pick of the evening for me was a Miles Davis blues. Spike had wonderful 16s with Simon, and the rest had memorable solos.

A great gig. And another to follow! Nicolas Meier has been with us many times. Hi-Fi magazine says “The virtuosity is jaw-dropping and the sound is so big that you keep expecting to hear the roar of stadium applause. A real trip.”. This is a very special band: Nicolas Meier on lots of guitars, Richard Jones on violin, Kevin Glasgow on bass and Demi Garcia on percussion.

Take care,
Dave

Calum Gourlay Quartet – 1 November 2019; Notes by Peter Fairman

“Calum

Calum Gourlay !!  . Well, this guy can certainly make the Big Double Bass sing. A deep rounded sound giving us some quite extraordinary solos to a very  appreciative audience . Originally playing the Cello on his musical journey. fortunately  for us changing to the Double Bass at the tender age of 14.

  He leads this Quartet on a Tour promoting its debut new Album “New Ears” of which I purchased a copy and currently playing it whilst writing these simple words.As expected all tunes were played  at last nights gig, and are “All” originals , written by Calum. I always find that originals, if any good ,get even better after several hearings. All these do exactly that. THOROUGHLY RECOMMENDED !!    ” NEW EARS”

The two front horns, Helena Kay Tenor Sax, and Kieran Mc Cloud Trombone, played impeccably and blended their individual Tones producing a combined beautiful sound. Sax and Trombone a lovely tone in unison.
Both also gave us some lengthy intriguing solos.

James Maddren, was the odd one out tonight . He is from England. All other three originate from Scotland
    A  very gifted Drummer in  constant demand  from both younger and established Jazz Musicians / Bands  Seen and heard at Fleece many times. Great Drummer.

Dave adds:
Next week, the amazing Simon Spillett will be with us. The super saxophonist brings quite a band: Rob Barron on piano. Alec Dankworth on bass and Spike Wells drums.
“A miraculous player who sounds like a reincarnation of Tubby Hayes but with his own personality. Catch him wherever he is. Astounding!” – John Martin, The Jazz Rag

A Portrait of Cannonball – 25 October 2019

“A

As the interval after set 1 began, an audience member said to me, “you are going to have to find a lot more superlatives for this one”. Whisperings of “best gig” occurred. Yes, it was that good, so this will be a shortened note. Details don’t matter.

The personnel for this amazing gig were Tony Kofi on alto sax, Andy Davies on trumpet and flugel, Alex Webb on keyboard, Andy Cleyndert on bass and Dave Ohm on drums.

Tony and Alex compered the gig. we got an excellent picture of the life and career of Cannonball Adderley as the show went on. The programme followed Cannonball’s career, and included work that he recorded, some that he wrote, some that was written for him, an example of the latter being Miles Davis’s “Nardis”. A couple were by brother Nat. There was a fine balance between ballads and up tempo tunes.

Everybody soloed wonderfully. Everybody accompanied with strong empathic connections to their colleagues. Everybody seemed to be having a good time. So did we.

I want to single out two people. Dave Ohm was a dep, new to the music. He played as if he had been part of the band for years. Both Tony and and Alex made a point of thanking him for his fine work. So do I.

Samuel on the desk produced beautiful sound. He worked particularly hard to make the keyboard feel like an acoustic instrument.

Part of the function of the club is to give gigs to fine young musicians. You may not have heard of the names in the Calum Gourley Quartet, but you will soon, they are special musicians. Helena Kay is on saxophone; Kieran McCloud plays trombone; James Maddren (you might know this name) is on drums; the gig is led by bassist Calumn Gourley. The music will be great. Come along.

Take care,
Dave

Benn Clatworthy Quartet – 18 October 2019

“Benn

We haven’t had tenorist Benn Clatworthy in far too long. The wonderful pianist John Donaldson delighted us recently, and again last Friday. Simon Thorpe, with his bass and grin, is always welcome. New to us was Darren Beckett, a drummer of style, dynamic and tonal range on a very small kit. The audience loved the Benn Clatworthy Quartet.

Benn constructed a very good programme, varied in mood, speed and tone. He plays mostly in the upper registers of the tenor sax, with big changes in timbre. Some examples: the opening number of the first set was his “The Pursuit”. His tone was weighty, perfect for this tough up tempo number. The next number was Strayhorn’s “My Little Brown Book”. This was a 3/4 ballad, and Benn’s beautiful solo had a lightness and sweetness that was delightful, He also has a good rapport with the audience, having fun, but telling us what we need to know.

The programme left tons of room for the trio to blow. People who knew were anticipating wonders from John, and were not disappointed. His solo on Ellington’s Latin up beat “Angelica” was very special.

Darren had an excellent solo on “Angelica”, but the one that caught my ear was Benn’s “Bolivian Odyssey”. Darren has all the speed and technique, and fast streaming ideas, but he is not afraid of being very sparse with the notes.

Simon’s accompaniment is always special. His work, solo and accompaniment on Tyner’s “Search for Peace” was outstanding. He had a great duet with Darren on “Blues for Dicky” (I think by Torolf Mølgaard). Simon watched the others closely, often with a big grin on his face.

The song of the night for me was “Search for Peace”. It had superb solos and accompaniment from all, but more important, you felt what Tyner was writing about.

A special gig to be followed by another. We will gather together (in the Garden Room, please note) for “A Portrait of Cannonball“. This is a super band. We will have Alex Webb on keyboards, Tony Kofi on alto sax, Andy Davies on trumpet, Andy Cleyndert on bass and Dave Ohm on drums.
“An absolute blast, one of the most exciting gigs of the year … a brilliant all-round package.”- London Jazz New
“Kofi’s spirited approach was supported by a tight rhythm section and Andy Davies, whose trumpet solos were sharp and clear.” – Jazzwise

Catherine Lima Band – 11 October 2019

“Catherine

I was really sad to have to leave the Catherine Lima gig at the interval, because the first set was a cracker. I am told that it got even better in the second set. So this will be a truncated note.

The Catherine Lima Band is:
The beautiful voice and presentation of Catherine. Her love of the words just shines through.
We know and admire Paul Higgs as a trumpeter, but for this gig he was (mostly) on the piano,, quite excellent. He also had superb work on the trumpet, and the melodica also made an appearance.
The rest were new to us, but I hope they will return. Alex Field played electric and nylon stringed acoustic guitars. We need to see him back at the club.
Alex Keen was our bassist. He is an excellent soloist and a star accompanist.
Our drummer was Jason Campbell, a guy who knows how to play a room. I enjoyed his work on this gig.

Catherine gave me a set list with authorships, so the research was all done for me. Thank you, Catherine. She gave is an excellent start (that first song is so important) with a Latin tinged “A Taste of Honey” (Scott/Marlow). She has an excellent voice and lovely technique, which gave us the words and their emotional effects. So we started off happy, and got happier through the set. The lady can scat, as she showed us on Gershin’s “S’Wonderful”. Catherine’s phrasing on the Altman/Lawrence “All or Nothing At All” was superb.l.

The Mendez/Bergman blues, “Centerpiece” gave Paul a chance to bring out his beautiful green trumpet. He comped behind the vocals and had a wonderful solo. The melodica made an appearance on the Green/Hayman “I Cover The Waterfront”, appropriate tonality somehow for the song.

I am really sorry to have missed the second set. I hope we have them back.

Next week, the Benn Clatworthy Quartet graces our stage again. They are Benn Clatworthy tenor sax, John Donaldson piano, Simon Thorpe bass, Dave Ohm drums. “Some of the most emotive and creative jazz this side of Sonny Rollins” – Edinburgh Evening News.

Take care,
Dave

Renato d’Aiello plays the music of Cedar Walton – 27 September 2019

“Renato

David Lyons is on holiday so he has asked me to do the review. Normal service will be resumed next time around!

The evening was an homage to the work of Cedar Walton, the pianist, composer and arranger. Born in Dallas, USA in 1934 he produced some lingering melodies and jazz classics which were performed superbly by Renato D’Aiello and his companions.

The first set opened with the Hungarian pianist, Mátyás Gayer backed by Nicola Muresu on double bass and Alfonso Vitale on drums. All three had short solo parts which helped establish the format of the evening. Next up was Cedar’s Blues which highlighted the elegant playing of Renato and Roberto Rossi.

Homage to Cedar was written by Mátyás and he led the band before the relaxed and dapper Renato played a beautiful tenor solo. To my mind this had a slight calypso feel to it and as the evening unfolded this variation of style and mood was clearly evident. The Maestro was a slower song and the following ballad, You’ve Changed allowed us to experience the smooth and mellow style of Roberto in his solo. The final number in the first set was Firm Roots. An up-tempo Walton number which was delivered with pace and energy by all concerned.

The gentle harmonies of Martha’s Prize opened the second set. Roberto Rossi on trombone took lead before handing off to Renato d’Aiello. Both added their instrumental character to this lovely and clear sounding piece. The tempo increases for the next number which has Renato and Roberto taking a double lead before each performs superbly in their solo leads.

Portrait of Jennie was, for me at least, the stand out number of the evening despite not being penned by Walton. Renato played this ballad with a slow and perfect delivery. Superb timing and compassionate playing. The final number is loosely interpreted as “Red Eyes”. At thirteen minutes this was the longest number of the evening and allowed all to highlight their individual skills. Renato and Roberto led in a double act before handing off to each other 17 times for their individual input. They came together for the all-in finale. A fitting end to the night……but of course, being Fleece Jazz, it wasn’t. The encore was a piece called No More. It, and the rest of the evening left the audience wishing for LOTS MORE!

No gig next week, but the delightful Catherine Lima brings her band on 11 October: Catherine on vocals, Paul Higgs on piano, Alex Field guitar, Alex Keen bass and Jason Cambell drums. This gig will be a delight. See you there,

Dave T