What a day. Four and a half hour drive to Heathrow (my wife almost missed her flight), four and a half hour drive straight to the club, arrived 5:30, leaving poor Gerry to do all the work. Ran the sound check on empty. Along comes 8pm, and the quartet starts to play. This tight, accurate, quietly impassioned band woke me up in the first few bars, and enthralled me throughout.
We had Rob Barron‘s quiet intensity on piano, Nat Steele‘s perfect melding on vibraphone, Jeremy Brown innovative on bass, and Josh Morrison’s excellent drumming.
The music was entirely standards. The arrangements were excellent, with tempo changes from the originals, fascinating re-timing of key notes, great dynamic variation and new vibes: Rob has a penchant for Latin. The sound of vibraphone and piano together was reminiscent of the George Shearing group, and a little of MJQ. So mostly familiar tunes, a sound remembered, fine and delightful arrangements, Oh yes, superb musicianship. I shouldn’t have to say that at Fleece Jazz.
My notes were a total mess, forgot to bring a proper pen, used a Sharpie, can’t read them. But a few tunes stand in the memory. Josh’s solo on Gershwin’s “Who Cares” was one, Jeremy’s solo on Cedar Walton’s “The Newest Blues” was another . Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing” had a stunning solo from Nat.
Johnny Mandel’s “A Time for Love” was an opportunity for Rob to wallow in the song’s sentimentality, which he avoided. The emotion and intensity of this beautifully played ballad was there without the shlock. In “Encounter”, on the “Love for Sale” chords, (sorry, can’t read the composer, might have got the song title wrong), Rob used the full range of the piano dynamics, throwing in a handful of very funny quotes.
It was an excellent gig, and the playing even got me through the de-rig and safely home. Thanks, guys.
The next gig is on 10 August. Do not expect a gentle time. It is the ever popular and frightening Fletch’s Brew, with Mark Fletcher drums, Freddy Gavita trumpet, Ross Stanley organ and Laurence Cottle Bass.
“We haven’t had anything like this in New York for over twenty years.” – Wynton Marsalis