Alina Bzhezhinska – 14 June 2019

“Alina

Sometimes, when fate smacks you around the head, the result is truly brilliant. Harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and drummer Joel Prime arrived and set up, and we waited for our friends Tony Kofi and Larry Bartley. And then the phone call. Failing car, masses of traffic, 50 miles away. So what to do?

What we got was a duo. harp and drums. The last time we had such a duo was The Stravinsky Duo, Will Butterworth (piano) and Dylan Howe (drums), and it was wonderful. But that was their superb take on two Stravinsky pieces, planned to the bar.

Alina and Joel put their heads together and structured an amazing two full sets of wonderful music, wonderfully played, all without reading (save one tune). We got the musicianship one expects from two world-class players, of course. We also got a varied and fascinating programme, with music from Alina, Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane and others. So Alice’s beautiful abstractions to bebop and blues were in the mix. Many of the tunes were on Alina’s CD, with Tony’s saxes and Larry’s bass, do buy it, it is a cracker.

Talking about solos would be a little silly in the context. Only a little, because the whole evening was an improvisation in a way. Joel had beautiful intros and solos. The brush solo on Alina’s “Following A Lovely Sky Boat” is in my memory. Alina’s improvisation was a delight throughout.

Speaking of improv, we had one free jazz tune. (Tune? yes, in the development). Joel laid down a riff, Alina tuned in, and they built a great piece. It gave both of them the opportunity to display the range of timbre and dynamics of their instruments. We are used to drummers doing this, but it was jaw-dropping to hear what the harp could do with timbre. Alina played it like a guitar close to the soundboard, built slides up and down a string, used percussion …

She also spoke to us simply but with passion about the music, its background, and about the instrument and what it could do.

Best wishes to Tony and Larry, and we hope to see all four again soon.

No jazz until July 5, which will be the Art Themen Trio. Art Themen sax, Pete Whittaker organ, George Double drums. It will be special. Do come.

Take care,
Dave

Tim Kliphuis Trio – 24 May 2019

“Tim

Canadians like me have a difficulty with British understatement. To say that the Tim Kliphius Trio was a bit special, even in the context of the musicianship the club gets, is the best I can do. The music was varied and fascinating, the musicianship exceptional. If they have fun, we have fun. And they did.

Tim Kliphuis played a soon to be famous Belgian violin at a special exhibition. Nigel Clark played a beautiful classical guitar by George Lowden. Roy Percy played a small double bass with a big, rich tone.

The evening started off with John Lewis’s “Django”. I first heard the Modern Jazz Quartet in my teens, and they turned me onto jazz. I was an only Bach guy before then. You could hear both MJQ and Django Reinhardt clearly in the music, particularly in Nigel’s solo.

The fourth tune was the presto movement, Concerto #4 of Bach’s six Brandenburg Concerti. It was a trio reduction from the work they did with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. It was true to Bach and to jazz, really wonderful. Of course it helps that Bach swings.

In this and the other classical pieces we heard, people said that they sounded like a full orchestra. Tim was double and even triple and quadruple stopping. Yes, it is possible if you are fast enough to do it sequentially. He was also playing harmonics in, it seemed, all of the positions of the violin as if they were not in any way exceptional or difficult, but just a high note. Whole phrases in harmonics! Nigel was adding percussion to the guitar, and Roy to the bass. Marvelous. The arrangement took us through lots of styles, including, (I think), Irish folk.

We also had Vivaldi’s “Winter” from his “Four Seasons”, all three musicians adding percussion; a Gabriel Fauré Nocturne, more Bach, “Brandenburg #3, Allegro”, Paganini’s “Caprice #24”. The latter is probably best known for the Lloyd Webber arrangement for the South Bank Show.

The trio had great fun with Stephane Grappelli’s “Piccadilly Stomp”, a fast Hot Club number. What was particularly noticeable was the quality of the accompaniment from all three, but in this number, particularly from Nigel. You could feel them listening.

If you missed this gig, it is the first of a UK tour. Find them and go.

A break for a couple of weeks will heighten the anticipation of the stunning harpist Alina Bzhezhinska, playing, among lots of other things, the music of Alice Coltrane. What a band! Alina on harp, Tony Kofi on sax, Larry Bartley on bass and drummer Joel Prime. Make sure that 14 June is in your diary.

Take care,
Dave (and editor Roberta)

Christian Brewer Quartet – 26 April 2019

“Christian

No apologies for the lack of notes the past few weeks. I was in Canada with friends and family, hail, snow, 20C above, everything but rain. We had a wonderful time. I am told that the Sara Oschlag and Ant Law gigs were excellent. I was back for the Christian Brewer Quartet and it was a delight.

Christian Brewer plays alto and soprano saxes, and he brought Leon Greening on piano, Adam King on bass and from New York, Mark Taylor on drums. The set list contained a lot of standards and a few lovely tunes by Christian. Each tune had high points and subtleties. It is a pity more people were not able to hear such beautifully played familiar music.

Mark first. He brought a minimal kit: kick, snare, crash, ride, high hat. He is a maximal talent. His accompaniment is spot on, with perfect volume. A good example of fine accompanying was on Chick Corea’s “Bud Powell”. He had amazing solos. The one that sticks in memory (sorry) was on Mike Nott’s “Dawn Bird”. He combines speed with subtlety in a unique way. His playing throughout was fascinating and a great pleasure to hear.

Adam is a young, award winning bassist, and we were rewarded by his presence at the club. He is not a solemn player: he grins at the unexpected in his colleagues work, and surprisingly, at his own. Christian’s excellent blues, “In the Spur of the Moment” gave Adam the opportunity for a stunning solo.

Leon truly inhabits the piano, becomes part of the instrument when soloing. The ideas flow at an incredible rate. Solo after solo had the audience entranced. I particularly loved his solo in Burton Lane’s “Old Devil Moon”. Beautiful intros are a specialty. We need to see him much more often.

Christian is a lyrical, toneful and tuneful saxophonist on both alto and soprano. I love his tone. Great solos, of course, in “In the Spur of the Moment” and Jim Snidero’s bossa nova “Reluctance” as examples. His own tunes were easy to hear, with lots of blowing room. “Marketa” gave everyone a chance to produce superb solos.

Next week, two bands for the price of one with an early start. The French singer Dahlia Dumont brings her Blue Dahlia project to begin the evening. And then the award winning pianist Eyal Lovett brings his love of melody to two sets sure to be stunning. See you there?

Take care,
Dave

Fletch’s Brew, 5 April 2019

“Gig

Fletch was back with a grand band of his own. Fletch’s Brew is always welcome to shake the walls. Wonderful gig.

Mark Fletcher led from the drums. The set list was invented on the fly, but displayed a pretty well balanced evening. Jim Watson was splendiferous on both piano and keyboards, sometimes both at the same time. Jim Hunt blew the roof off on tenor sax. Laurence Cottle on electric bass provided a wonderful foundation and pulse.

Jim Hunt first. He is a local boy (went to school in Stoke by Nayland). He played at the place that was the genesis of Fleece Jazz, the Peacock pub in Chelsworth. Jim is a superb tenorist. He has great control over volume and tone. In most of the tunes, he played with a tough bebop tone, an example being a monster solo in Goldings (sorry, lost the first name) “Sound Off”. In Sammy Fain’s “Secret Love” and some others, his soloing was particularly tuneful. But in Monk’s “Ask Me Now”, the tone was sweet, an old fashioned big band sound. We had a collection of brilliant solos to remember from him.

Jim Watson next. He has played for us quite a few times recently on piano, organ and keys, each time a revelation. It was piano (mostly) and keys this time. Lots of top drawer solos, inventive and varied in dynamics and mood. I listened carefully to his accompaniment, in which he found himself in the minde of the soloist. His solo in Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile stands in the memory.

Laurence Cottle is a master of his instrument, of course. The joke about bassists is that when they solo it is time to chat with your neighbour. Not with Laurence. He is so inventive. I listened to technique on his solo on “Black Nile”. He used normal single line, finger style chording in a melody string and harmonics. The thing is that they flowed by so naturally only a geek like me would take notice. He had a wowser of a solo on Avishai Cohen’s “Smashed”.

And Fletch? Well the first thing you notice is that he is coiffed and bearded. Then he slams into the first number of the night, Coltrane’s “Some of the Blues”, and yep; he is a genius. This being his own band, he had lots of soloing opportunities. The brush solo on “Secret Love” was beautiful. The extended solo on “Sound Off” was breathtaking. The thing for me, though, is his listening, Now all four of them do that. They are proper jazz musicians. Mark seems to sense what they are going to do. He is such fun to watch, and he is a good compere. Thanks for a stunning evening, Fletch.

Next week, a beautiful singer from the south coast, Sara Oschlag will be with us. She will be bringing a superb trio: Tony Kofi on saxes, Jason Henson on guitar and Simon Thorpe on bass.
Sara is a singer with a musician’s ear and a superb sense of swing.

Take care,
Dave.

Sean Kahn Quartet – 29 March 2019

“Sean

Intensity is the word that comes to mind from Friday’s glorious gig. Our players were led by Sean Khan, on alto and soprano saxes, with Sam Leake on piano and keys, Lorenzo Bassignani on electric bass and Laurie Lowe on drums. Did the audience like them? They demanded two encores.

Some players don’t let their bodies reflect the music they are playing. Sean’s body is hugely expressive, as the notes fly by or sustain. He gave as a programme of his own writing and standards, nicely balanced between slow and fast, tough and gentle.

The first number, his “Said” was a great introduction to his work. It had a strong middle eastern vibe. Sean’s solo was very powerful, with huge fast strings of notes across the entire instrument. It was very special to hear and see. It was followed by another original, “Waltz for Hermeto” which showed us his intensity on a slower piece. His use of dynamics was striking. What was particularly special was his accompaniment when the others soloed. What a debut at the club! He will be back.

Sam Leake has played for us before, so we know his work to be excellent. He played piano and keyboard. I enjoyed his work all through the gig. If there was a highlight, It was the last tune in the first set, Monk’s “Blue Monk”. Sam is also capable of speed, but on this one, his playing was very Monk like (or maybe Stan Tracey like), sparse in places. A real joy.

Lorenzo Bassignani was new to us. He is a master of his instrument of course, whether soloing, or providing the pulse and foundation for the others. I loved his solo on Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight”. As an accompanist he was superb. I noticed this most in Shorters “Yes or No”, very fast.

It was with John Law in 2016 that Laurie Lowe was last with us. On Friday, he reminded us of his talent. He had a few long solos, the best was probably in the second set, Hermeto Pascoal’s “Mixing Pot”. He played a larger kit with two toms, and got a big range of timbre from it with both sticks and brushes.

Next week, a Fleece Jazz favourite, Fletch’s Brew returns, but with some differences in the lineup. Mark Fletcher leads from the drum kit with Jim Hunt tenor sax, Jim Watson piano and keyboards and Laurence Cottle bass. Across evolving line ups the central ethos of the “Brew” remains commitment to spontaneity, whether playing original compositions or new arrangements across the jazz styles. And there is another commitment: a great deal of fun and joy. Don’t miss it.

Take care,
Dave

The John East Project – 22 March 2019

“The

We don’t often get a septet at Fleece Jazz, and to get one as marvelous as this is exceptional.

We had: John East‘s excellent vocals and (real vintage) Hammond and Leslie, Mark Fletcher magnificent on drums, Freddie Gavita depping beautifully on trumpet and flugel, Nigel Price majestic on guitar, the great electric bassist Steve Pearce, Dave Lewis a star as always on tenor sax and Dan Hewson doubling on trombone and piano (not at the same time, but I bet he could). What a lineup indeed!

And they didn’t disappoint. From opening song to encore they sent energy, accuracy, artistry and fun out to the audience. Going through each of their solos would be silly: all fine.

I do want to concentrate on one player. Mark was hidden most of the time in the back row of a crowded stage. I spent some time listening to his accompaniment. He seemed to be right in the mind of the players, supporting soloists and at the same time hearing the rest of the accompanying players. Accompanying is an art, and Mark was spot on whether it be a quiet vocal ballad, a mid-pace blues or a full on up tempo song.

We had that kind of variety in the programme, which made the gig move just fly by, with an audience wanting much more.

I should mention the arrangements. It was clear in a short rehearsal that this was not trivial stuff. The audience would only know that Freddy was a dep because John told them.

We had a glorious evening.

Next week we have the Sean Khan Quartet. Sean’s blissful and gifted alto sax playing demonstrates a rare technical prowess, an understanding of Jazz history and a raging determination to carve out its future.

We have Sean Kahn on alto & soprano sax, Sam Leake on piano, Lorenzo Bassignani on bass and Laurie Lowe on drums.

Sean’s second album was described simply by Jazzwise as stunning, the acclaim and success of this album led to Sean and his band playing to sell out crowds at Ronnie Scott’s and The Jazz Cafe. I hope to see you at what promises to be an excellent gig.

Take care,
Dave

Steve Fishwick Quartet – 15 March 2019

“Steve

On Friday we had four top guys without a chordal instrument, so I expected an interesting sound from trumpet, sax, bass and drums. More than interesting: it was a very fine gig.

Steve Fishwick (t) led the group in partership with Alex Garnett (s), with the New Yorker Mike Karn (b), and twin brother Matt Fishwick (d). These gentlemen are steeped in the bebop tradition, and it was mostly a bebop evening, with tunes by Steve and Alex, Monk and Johnny Green. I think the arrangements were shared between Steve and Alex, and they were terrific, and not easy.

Steve takes his music visually very seriously (but watch the expressive eyebrows). On Friday he was visibly having a fun time up there. His command of the instrument, particularly in the high registers, is about perfect. His solo on his tune, “The Creep”, particularly caught my ear. He used a cup mute, which is an old design, and sounds a bit like a Harmon mute, but a bit sweeter. He played the flugel on two tunes. On Alex’s “Rio de Ron” the flugel in unison and harmony with the sax gave a delightful change of timbre.

“Rio de Ron” translates as “River of Rum”. Alex was the compere for the gig, and we got quite a history of his favourite Demerara rum. In addition, he gave us a lot of information about the tunes and their background, often very funny. There was some very quick banter with the audience. Oh yes, and he played like an angel. It is difficult to pick out one solo to comment about from such a fine evening’s performance, but his solo on Steve’s “Kaftan” was a delight.

If you advertise your bassist as being a busy man in New York, you expect some special playing, and we got it. Mike Karn has all the basics, of course: perfect intonation even when double stopping, and an accurate pulse. What makes him exceptional is the idea flow. Two solos stood out for me: “Rio de Ron”, and Monk’s “Reflections”.

Matt spent five years playing very successfully in New York. “If you make it here…”. He plays the room, volume level always right. He hears his colleagues: the phrase is “he has big ears”. And when he solos, it is always great. I particularly loved his solo on Steve’s fast blues, “Wroth of Karn”. So was the trading 4s with sax and trumpet on Steve’s “Kaftan.

This excellent quartet will be followed on Friday by a monster septet playing many familiar tunes. It is led by John East, a frequent player at the 606 club in London. What a lineup! John East Hammond Organ and vocals, Mark Fletcher drums, Freddie Gavita trumpet, Nigel Price guitar, Steve Pearce bass, Dave Lewis tenor sax and Dan Newson trombone and piano. You really don’t want to miss this one.

Take care,
Dave

John Turville Quintet featuring Julian Arguelles – 1 March 2019

“John

The musicians were John Turville on piano, Julian Arguelles on tenor and soprano sax, Robbie Robson on trumpet, Dave Whitford on bass and James Maddren on drums. So we were assured of musiacianship of the highest order.

And what about the music?

Well, it was excellent, some of it stunning, some a little challenging (a good thing in my view). Some tunes were written by John, one by Robbie, and the rest were standards. The programme had a nice variation in tempo and style. John varied the composition of the band, with quartets and duos. All of the tunes were long enough to let people blow. Lets take a look at a few of the tunes.

John’s “A Month in Tunisia” (sic) had Julian and John play an intro that was Arabic in character. Julian’s tenor had just the right timbre, and he covered the range of the instrument. It moved into serious bebob. Julian’s solo was something special, with amazing long phrases. Julian’s circular breathing is almost invisible. People should listen a bit to the accompaniment. Dave and James wove beautiful counter-melodies and rhythms, just right for John and Julian. Robbie didn’t play on this one.

Next came Diago Schissi’s “Cancon Quattro”. Wonderful rhythms in the arrangement and great solos by John and Robbie as a duo. With the quintet in action, Robbie had a stunning solo in Kenny Wheeler’s “The Jigsaw”,

My favourite piece was John’s “Interval Music”. This was a duo, John, and Julian on soprano. It was not based on any normal chordal system, but on a modern classical system of 12 tones, a tone row. It was truly beautiful, It was a bit strange to hear a French art song at a jazz gig. I like strange.

I could write about every tune, because each had something different and special about it. Those three should give you a flavour of a superb gig.

No gig next week, rest for the wicked, but on 15 March, the return of the bebop trumpeter, Steve Fishwick, with Alex Garnett on saxophone, the American multinstrumentalist Mike Karn on bass, and brother Matt Fishwick on drums. Please come along, you will not regret it.

Take care,
Dave

Clark Tracey Quintet: “No Doubt” – 22 February 2019

“Clark

Except for the presence of the wonderful Clark Tracey, the combined age of the musicians was actually less than mine. I hate it when that happens.

Clark has been working with these four musicians for a couple of years, during which they all have garnered garlands and awards. Their musicianship is just stunning.

So Clark (on drums, for those that don’t know) led and arranged the music for Alex Ridout on trumpet, Sean Payne on alto sax, Elliott Sansom on piano and James Ouston on bass. Clark planned just a few long numbers in each set so that everybody got a chance to blow, and blow they did.

Take Sean’s solo on Victor Feldman’s “Joshua”. Sean loves the high range of the alto sax and has complete command of it, playing most of the solo in that range and using the low range for accent. James had a beautiful bass intro on this one.

Alex had a superb high speed solo on her own “Top Dog”. In contrast, in David Raskin’s “Laura”, she produced a truly beautiful tone on this very slow ballad. The piano accompaniment by Elliot was perfect.

Elliott has such speed in his fingers that I was worried that our upright piano action could not cope (it did). He can play slow with intensity too: Kenny Wheeler’s “Foxy Trot” had him produce a Sati like intro. I also loved his solo on the Adderly (Nat, I think) “Funk”.

James controls the bass from top to bottom. It was tricky to pick a single solo from this young master, but probably his in “Top Dog” was most memorable.

Our good friend Clark brought us a great band, excellent arrangements, clear and informative announcements (thank you, thank you) and superb drumming. There were some extended 4s trading, and a great solo in Hank Mobley’s “Take Your Pick”.

On Friday, The John Turville Quintet featuring the superb Julian Arguelles will be with us. Don’t miss this stellar band: John Turville piano, Julian Arguelles tenor/soprano sax, Robbie Robson trumpet, Dave Whitford bass, James Maddren drums

Take care,
Dave