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

Kevin Flanagan Quartet – 20 December 2019<

“Kevin

Well, it is Christmas day, and I hope you are all having stunningly good holiday. This is the first time I have had time to write some notes out a truly wonderful gig, and I have lost my notes. The Kevin Flanagan Quartet had Kevin on tenor and soprano saxes, David Gordon on piano, Joel Humann on bass and a dep on drums, Oliver Reynolds.

About Olivier. One of the joys of rigging the club is watching the musicians rehearse. Oliver was completely new to the music. The the music was complex and nuanced. One of the songs was in 5/4, 4./4, and a bit in 3/4. Comes the show, and no-one would have known that Oliver was a dep. He gave a marvelous performance.

Kevin’s powerful playing had a very close connection with the audience, whether an up tempo monster of a song, or a ballad. David Gordon is a consummate player with a left hand as good as the right. His continuing classical work on harpsichord may have something to do with this. Joel is a superb accompanist and a fine soloist.

If there was one song that stuck in my memory, it would be McCoy Tyner”s “Search for Peace”. Lots of musicians love this song. The quartet on Friday played the best I have heard at the club. It was the intensity, the listening, the gentleness and the power, and the wonderful solos that starred this song in and evening of superb playing.

On Friday, and Octet for the holidays. Just look at this lineup!

Alan Barnes Saxes,
Robert Fowler Sax,
Karen Sharp Sax,
James Copus Trumpet,
Mark Nightingale Trombone,
Dave Newton Piano,
Simon Thorpe Bass,
Clark Tracey Drums

Do join us for a holiday spectacular.

Take care,
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

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