Babelfish – 10 January 2020

“Babelfish

Brigitte Beraha is an explorer, an improviser, a singer who thinks deeply about the lyrics. She sang for us on Friday backed by a superb trio.

On stage were Brigitte Beraha on vocals, Barry Green on piano, bassist Chris Laurence and drummer and percussionist Paul Clarvis.

The programme was very well balanced, with songs by Brigitte and Barry, some standards, and a few surprises. Aaron Copland’s composition of Emily Dickenson’s poem “Heart, We Will Forget Him” was turned into a lovely, sad jazz ballad, which somehow segued naturally into “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” (Harry Carroll composer, Joseph McCarthy lyricist).

But a bigger surprise was a song that Brigitte considers the most beautiful one ever written. It was written in the late 1600s by Henry Purcell. It is “Dido’s Lament” from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas”. The band began and ended with a close and beautifully played and sung rendition of the Purcell, but the central part of the song was filled with quite amazing cross improvisations by the whole band.

Brigitte sang the verse as well as the chorises of Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer’s “I Remember You”. I love singers that sing the verse. Brigitte scats a lot, but varies the articulations to suit the songs, as in this one.

I love what they did with Jobim’s “Wave”. Paul plays the most expressive tambourine. Barry had a stunning solo. Paul and Brigitte had a fascinating duet. Chris’ solo was superb.

It was a very good night,

Next week a 12 piece band, “Pavillon”, led by French horn player Jim Rattigan. The band features saxophonists Martin Speake on alto, Andy Panayi on tenor and Mick Foster on baritone, Percy Pursglove, Robbie Robson and Steve Fishwick on trumpet, Mark Nightingale and Sarah Williamson on trombone, pianist Hans Koller, double bassist Dave Whitford and Martin France on drums. It will be a great evening. Don’t miss it.

Take care,

Dave

Ian Shaw with Barry Green – 3 January 2020

“Ian

After Friday’s gig, I was wondering about why I loved the gig so much, just one voice and pianist, But what a voice, what a pianist!

Ian Shaw‘s basic instrument is excellent. It is what he does with it that is so amazing. He has complete control of timbre, intonation, enunciation, dynamics, phrasing, and probably a bunch more components of voice that I don’t know about. More important is how he uses that control. He is an improvising singer, and his flights of improvisation make the words have more meaning.

Barry Green says he is working on “the right number of notes” (as Stan Tracey said), Without a pile of virtuosity, which I know he has, the phrasing and dynamics need to be perfect in the moment as he hears Ian sing, and they are. He gave us many thoughtful solos.

That’s right, Ian, don’t tell the sound guy about a special guest. Hannah Horton played sax on the seventh tune of the first set, and again in the second set, and her tenor sounded just fine unamplified.

Ian had constructed a delightfully varied and meaningful programme, and his presentation of the music was often great fun, and always interesting. I loved it when he sang so beautifully the rarely heard verse of Richard Rogers’ “With a Song in My Heart”. “September in the Rain” (Harry Warren composer, Al Dubin lyricist) gave us a chance to hear some wonderful extended scatting in this up tempo version of the song.

Barry’s accompaniment on Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” was sparse, with lovely phrasing, each note placed just right. His solo on Jack Segal’s “I Keep Going Back to Joe’s”, one of my favourite songs, was wonderful.

Leonard Cohen started as a poet, and wrote some novels, so it is not a surprise that he was a consummate lyricist. “Dance Me to the End of Love” was extra special, in a very special evening. Ian gave the words such meaning, through the whole range of his voice. Barry’s accompaniment and solo were sublime.

Next week, 10 January, Babelfish returns, Brigitte Beraha vocals, Barry Green back again on piano, Chris Laurence bass, Paul Clarvis drums/percussion.
Ian Mann says of Brigitte, “One of the most adventurous young vocalists around, a musical explorer..”.

Take care,
Dave

Alan Barnes Octet – 27 December 2019

“Alan

Five great horns on the front line and a world class back line gave us a wonderful show last Friday.

What a lineup! Alan Barnes alto and clarinet, Robert Fowler tenor and clarinet, Karen Sharp baritone and clarinet, James Copus trumpet and flugelhorn, Mark Nightingale trombone, Dave Newton piano, Simon Thorpe bass and Clark Tracey drums.

Most of the music was written by Alan, with the superb orchestrations by Alan with Mark’s editorial strength. The second set was top and tailed by very different renditions of Lucille Bogan’s “B. D. Woman’s Blues”, Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” graced that set. Alan wrote eight of the tunes to feature the individual players.

And that horn chorus was just wonderful: varied, always interesting, with stunning musical surprises. The solos of the featured musician were all a delight, but solos in other numbers were up to the same standard. There were just so many great solos that I can not pick out individual ones. Well, maybe Clark’s 9/8 extravaganza, Karen’s “Karens Waltz”, Robert’s “Nostalgic”, Alan’s “Everybody Knows”, Mark’s “French for Nightingale” (if I can read my writing), David’s gentle bossa, James’ “The Barrister”, Simon’s “Escapology”. What a wonderful evening!

Next Friday, January 3rd, a voice and presentation at the very top of the field, accompanied by one of our finesr pianists. Ian Shaw will be with Barry Green on our stage. You cannot miss this combination in the intimate Fleece Jazz room.

Take care, and a happy healthy New Year to you all.

Dave

David Newton Trio – 13 December 2019

“David

I just received the photos of the David Newton Trio gig, with Peter the photographer’s comments: “Brilliant gig on Friday night. ‘The One and Only’ it truly proved to be. Three Guys at the top of their game Dave/Simon/Winston (D.S.W trio)
From the very first note to the last, Superb !! Clean,clear and swing.”. No argument there, then. I love the piano trio form, and this one was world class.

Our world class trio was David Newton using the whole piano, star bassist Simon Thorpe and the amazing Winston Clifford on drums and vocals.

Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” opened the gig. If anyone felt like the piano trio form was boring they would have been put to shame by their interpretation, musicianship, tightness as a group and sheer exuberance. That was followed by Gene de Paul’s beautiful “I Remember April”, in which all three guys had exquisite solos.

Something about David and improvisation: you sometimes see a keyboardist drop his left had as the right works out an idea. I saw David develop a string of ideas with the left hand. His hands are truly equal partners, which is not that common. He also uses the soft pedal to modify the instrument’s tonality. There is only one other jazz musician that I remember doing that. This man’s range in speed, power, delicacy was amazing. We heard all of these in the Chopin Prelude in C minor,

Simon had lovely solos and intros throughout. I particularly remember his solo on “I Remember April”. His accompaniment was consistently brilliant. His grin at the work of the other two was infectious.

I was hoping that Winston would sing, and was not disappointed. In the first set, Guy Woods’ “My One and Only Love” showed us Winston’s deep tenor to counter-tenor range, beautiful phrasing and flow of ideas. In the second set, he had great fun with “Bye Bye Black Bird” (Ray Henderson). His scatting was delightful. Oh yes, he is also and mostly a world class drummer.

It was a gig I will long remember. But…

Next week, the 20th, Kevin Flanagan brings his excellent quartet, Kevin Flanagan Tenor sax, David Gordon Piano, Tom Hooper Drums, Joel Humann Bass. This is a Fleece Jazz favourite, do come.

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

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

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

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