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

Deelee Dubé and Renato D’Aliello – 15 February 2019

“Deelee

Because of my medical problems, I have not had time to write up this stunning gig. As a holding exercise, can I just say that Deelee sang like several varieties of angel, Renato played his butt off. The arrangements were his, and great. Bruno Montrone is a superb pianist. A strong bassist was needed, and Adam King filled the bill. The young Alfonso Vitale is a wonderful drummer.

The audience was delighted by a great gig.

Chris Bowden Quintet featuring Brian Corbett: “Unlikely Being” – 8 February 2019

“Chris

I don’t know what to write about this great gig. Superb and tuneful writing, great musicianship, fine solos, super accompaniment all the way through, and a very happy audience. That kind of does it.

Details, details.

The personnel were Chris Bowden on tenor and alto saxes, Bryan Corbett on trumpet, flugel and stompbox, Jim Watson on piano and keyboard, Chris Dodd on electric bass and Neil Bullock on drums.

Chris Bowden writes fine tunes. His orchestration is delightful and varied. He uses the two horns brilliantly. Bryan can vary his timbre either naturally, with a mute or with his stompbox kit. Chris uses that as one parameter, the other being whether the horns are in unison, a harmony or as in “Way Back Down”, a jazz battle, each soloing but listening. That plus his own lovely solos on both tenor and alto.

Bryan Corbett can do no wrong, says he admitting to bias. The range of timbres he gets is amazing. If I had to pick a favourite solo it would be the start of the second set, “Ridiculous Itinerary”.

Jim Watson played with Nigel Price a few weeks ago, on organ. For last Friday’s gig he played mostly piano, some keyboard, and sometimes both. I was looking forward to his piano playing and was not disappointed. Ideas just flow, and he has a great left hand. He had many fine solos, but his accompaniment was superb.

Chris Dodd wrote a lovely ballad, “Autumn Noon”. Jim had a beautiful solo on that one, as did Chris B. His solo on “We are a liar (sic?)” was special. Again, he provided excellent accompaniment.

Neil Bullock gave us a great duet with Jim on piano in “The Old God”. His accompaniment was very good indeed. I particularly loved his work on the last song of the evening, “Pollock Painting”, which was my favourite tune of the show. It was evocative of riding bicycles over wet paint slowly and some frenetic paint heaving in others. Everybody excelled on this one.

Next week, the beautiful voice and phrasing of the lovely Deelee Dubé will grace our stage, with Renato D’Aliello’ mellow saxophone beside her. Bruno Montrose will be on piano, Darren McCarthy on bass and Alfonso Vitale on drums. Deelee is a superb singer, don’t miss her.

Take care

Dave

Basil Hodge Quartet – 1 February 2019

“Basil

On Saturday after the gig, we went to visit my daughter to celebrate her birthday (50th!!), and this is the first time I have had to write about the truly splendid gig. No problems with remembering.

The Basil Hodge Quartet had Basil on piano, and alll of the compositions were his. Ed Jones played tenor and soprano saxes. Oli Hayhurst was our bassistl Winston Clifford was the drummer. Dream team.

Basil writes great tunes. Some are beautiful tunes, new, but easy to listen to. Some tell a tougher story and tell it well. His piano playing is a bit Monkish (not a bad thing). His solo in one tune, “Deep Down”, raised a smile on Ed’s face as the right hand made an extended counter-melody to the tune. His careful accompaniment was just the right underpinning to the band.

Ed is a saxophonist of power and intensity. He powers through the altisimo tenor range as in “Happy New Year”, sorter and powerful in “Tears of Joy”, where he switched into double time. In the opening number, “Jobim the Boss”, Ed Basil and Oli had great solos on that one

Oli is a frequent player at Fleece Jazz. He has perfect intonation and tons of Ideas. His solo in “Regrets” was stunning: in the words of Stan Tracey, ‘The right number of notes’. Throughout the gig, he was the foundation.

We haven’t seen Winston in far too long. The guy is my favourite drummer. His brush work on the 3/4 “Regrets” and on “Common Ground” where he held a complex repeated cross rhythm pattern while still seeming to anticipate soloists with (it seems) his other two hands. Solos? Lots, and the star solo goes to the upbeat “Hanging Out”.

The second set opened with a tune I knew pretty well, “The Thirteenth Amendment”. The tune spoke about the abolition of slavery in the USA, and about unfinished business. The bass entry can be over-egged, but not by Oli. He was brilliantly simple, direct, and a little scary. Everybody absolutely blew their asses off, the audience clapped and hollered afterwards, and one of the musicians said loud enough to hear, ‘follow that’.

So to follow a great gig with my favourite drummer will be a great gig with my favourite trumpet player, Bryan Corbett. The band is led by Chris Bowden alto sax, Bryan Corbett plays trumpet and flugel, Jim Watson returns on piano, Chris Dodd plays bass and bass guitar and our drummer is Neil Bullock.
“Atmospheric tunes, extended arrangements, powerful performances and good old fashioned grooves” – London Jazz News.

Take care,
Dave

Alan Barnes Quartet – 25 January 2019

“Alan

Alan’s dry wit and humour permeated this grand gig. Four of the best just got up there and played, hardly any charts. Five elements made up this grand evening: Alan Barnes on baritone and alto sax and clarinet, Robin Aspland on piano, Arnie Somogyi on bass, Matt Home on drums and an audience that loves the music and loves the musicians. Sad there were not more of the latter to enjoy it.

I am not sure whether there was a partial set list or Alan made up the list as he went along (which was part of the fun). These guys know each other and the music so well that all the ensemble was tight. There was one song in which Alan had to tell Robin the 5 complex chords for the bridge: 10 seconds. Got a laugh from the audience, which was probably the intention.

The music ranged from proper bebop (Charlie Parker’s “Steeplechase”), through beautiful Jobim (A Felicidate), a Strayhorn ballad (“Lotus Blossom”) to the upbeat Walton “Bolivia”. Alan played the last two on baritone, and what was striking was his use of tone. In “Lotus Blossom” the tone was clear, sweet, beautiful. In “Bolivia” it was appropriately strong and rough.

A couple of solos to mention. Matt had a stunning brush solo in Alan’s beautiful “One for Mo”, which was written for his daughter Molly. Alan was glorious soloing in “Los Caracol”, with Matt laying down a complex groove. Arnie gave us a stunning solo in this one. And that for snails. Robin had a beautiful solo in the Jobim.

But the overall gig was a delight from beginning to end, and clearly the audience wanted more and more.

Next week. we are delighted to host Basil Hodge again. “Hodge generates more piano power…his starry front liners frequently lock horns in a harmonic manner reminiscent of Horace Silver’s groups.” says Chris Yates of Jazz UK.
What a lineup: Basil Hodge piano, Ed Jones tenor sax, Oli Hayhurst bass, Winston Clifford drums. This is something special, folks.

Take care,
Dave