A busy stretch of gigs has proved to be a very stimulating experience and has led to the following summaries and reflections.
First up was a trip to Paris on 20 June to catch a new band In Bed With In set up by French drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and featuring Kit Downes on organ and keys and French guitarist Julien Desprez. They were playing in the Paris suburb Les Lilas, so not strictly in Paris, at an attractive club plus bar/restaurant called Le Triton. The band has picked up from an earlier all-French band Q that I heard at Jazz Sous Les Pommiers a few years ago. They played a short but very impressive set; they had rehearsed for three intensive days before the gig so this was a very tight performance combining jazz with elements of rock and electronics. The music has the energy of rock, the surprises of jazz and the cosmic nature of the electronics. The band is supported by the Jazz Shuttle scheme which brings together French and British players and supports the development of new material through the funded rehearsal periods. The scheme also takes the bands to venues in both France and UK, so we can look forward to hearing them over here next year.
Back in Birmingham I very much enjoyed the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra concert at Symphony Hall. The focus was on Blue Note Records which this year celebrates its 75th Anniversary and the concert consisted of arrangements for the big band of pieces originally recorded by small groups. We had three tunes written by Horace Silver in recognition of his recent death, plus tunes by Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and others, all arranged by members of the band. The arrangements were mostly beautifully done and it was impressive that the choice of tunes avoided some of the more obvious Blue Note ones, and came up with some gems that we have not heard that often. As ever, the evening ended with just Wynton and saxophonist Walter Blanding jamming over the rhythm section for one final number.
After the gig I rushed down to the Spotted Dog to catch the second set of Tom Bunting’s Dectet. It was a wonderful contrast to sit right in front of the band at the Dog as compared with sitting in the stalls at Symphony Hall. Don’t get me wrong: I loved Wynton and Jazz at the Lincoln Center and it was wonderful to hear it in the best concert hall in UK, but there is also something special about sitting immediately in front of two really burning trombonists and getting the full blast of the band. The two trombonists were Richard Foote and Tom Dunnett and they were featured on the first number of the second set. Altogether, this was an excellent band and it is good to hear Tom Bunting back in creative mode.
The band finished and things were being set up for the jam session when, lo and behold, both Wynton Marsalis and Walter Blanding arrived for the jam. First up was Walter playing a curved soprano sax and playing long interesting lines in front of a rhythm section that clearly impressed him; he was then joined by Wynton and they played four or five numbers with Mark Pringle on keys, Ben Muirhead on bass and Billy Weir, James Anderson, Gwilym Jones, Euan Palmer and Jonathan Silk taking turns on the drums. I love Wynton’s playing in a small group, blowing context and this was no exception. He and Walter were clearly impressed by the rhythm section, especially, it would seem, by Mark Pringle’s playing, but I found it a little surprising that suddenly they packed up their horns and were off back to their hotel.
The drum kit was Jonathan Silk’s so he had to wait till the end of the jam, 2.30ish, before packing up and getting ready to catch a 7am train up to Glasgow for the Scottish Young Jazz Musician of the Year competition. So it is even more impressive that he won it! Many congratulations to Silky!
Mention of Jonathan Silk reminds me that the Friday evening Symphony Hall session two weeks ago with the Robbie Moore Quartet was excellent with great interaction between the members of the quartet, Robbie on piano, Tom Ford on guitar, Nick Jurd on bass and Jonathan on drums. I missed the Friday session with Pete Churchill the following week, but everyone was full of praise for it. Friday just gone saw the usual powerhouse performance from Simon Spillett playing with Keith Bill piano, David Storer, bass and Miles Levin drums. Sessions with Simon always take me back to Ronnie Scott’s in Gerrard Street in the ’60s and wonderful memories of Tubby Hayes.
In between all this, I was in London for one night of the Sun Ra Arkestra’s residency at Café Oto. As always, there was a packed, excited audience and a tremendous atmosphere. The band may be a bit ragged at times, but the presence of Shabaka Hutchingsin the sax section added a lot of energy. And I love the way the band combines free passages with swing sections, even juxtapositioning the two on certain tunes.
Finally, Rory Simmons’ Monocled Man with Rory on trumpet and flugelhorn, Chris Montague on guitar and Jon Scott on drums played with impressive energy and enthusiasm despite a disappointingly small audience at the Hare & Hounds last Thursday. The music lies in similar territory to that of In Bed With, a mix of jazz, electronics and rock.
Any conclusions? Firstly, there is a tremendous range of music on offer in UK (and Paris) and it is difficult to keep up with it all. There may be some boring jazz somewhere, but I seem to have avoided it! I still find all I hear really stimulating and exciting. Secondly, hearing Jazz at the Lincoln Center and the Arkestra makes me doubt ideas that jazz in the USA now lags behind that in Europe. The scenes in the UK, France, Norway and other European countries are very interesting and innovative, but there is still lots of good stuff coming out of the USA.
Categories: Live review
Good that you liked the Lincoln Centre; I have to say this group has really grabbed my attention especially with this last showing.
Wynton said in the back of my car (they were knackered I think), ‘that pianist was really sayin’ something’; or words to that effect!
What a great night for the midlands jazz scene and thanks to everyone who made it possible; (apologies for missing anyone out)-Mary, Tony and Jonathan Silk