Review and Picture by Garry Corbett
The Red Lion, Hockley, Birmingham UK
At the end of the trio’s opening number Phil Robson gave us a little insight into the glamorous world of the itinerant jazz musician. His back announcement revealed that the band’s Red Lion appearance had been preceded by “an horrendous motorway journey and hastily eaten burgers”. The opener had served to aid their digestion.
From that opener, Second Thoughts, to the closer, Ming the Merciless, which had the audience boogalooing in their seats this was a great evening’s jazz.
The trio, Phil Robson, guitar, Ross Stanley, organ, and Gene Calderazzo, drums, played as though they really meant it. All preconceptions that any jaded audience member might have held that they’d heard all this organ trio stuff before was blown out of the water. This is no retro tribute to ’60s Blue Notes. They take the concept then shake it up a bit.
Here to play material from their debut album The Cut Off Point (Whirlwind Records, reviewed here) they gave us plenty to enjoy and ponder including the near free-form sonic collage of the album’s title track during which Robson gave us hard edged grittiness while Ross Stanley added slabs of electronic abstraction and Calderazzo booted the whole thing along in solid fashion. Contrasting beautifully was Astral which Robson introduced as having been inspired by the late Kenny Wheeler. From its pastoral opening guitar, underpinned by organ swells, to its oddly familiar sounding melody into which Kenny’s flugelhorn sound would have fitted so well, it is a winner. It featured lovely solos from Robson and Stanley.
Though concentrating on material from their new album the sets contained three non-Robson penned numbers. A delicate take on What’s New saw Robson caressing the melody with swirling organ work from Stanley that took us close to church at one point (Gospel rather than C of E I should add). Some fine brush work from Calderazzo, then sticks and finally winding up with some majestic mallet work at the end. Dave Liebman’s Dimi And The Blue Men took us to the Sahara. The opening conjured blue skies, the odd white cloud and shimmering heat as we set of on our nomadic journey across an arid terrain. We took a couple of changes of direction and tempo along the way before arriving at our destination. Larry Golding’s Sound Off had Robson checking the key changes before beginning because the trio hadn’t played it for “about a year”. Flying by the seat of their pants clearly adds to the adventure.
A great night’s jazz from a band who obviously love playing together. To my ears a unit which deserves the time to develop their take on a classic sound. Best summed up by the punter at the conclusion of the final number Ming the Merciless who said to me, “another 20 minutes of that wouldn’t have gone amiss”.
Amen to that and congratulations to Birmingham Jazz on another triumphant evening.
- The next Birmingham Jazz gig is this Friday, 12 June, when the Ivo Neame Quintet close the current season. This will be followed by the very first Birmingham Jazz Legends Festival. With Henry Lowther as curator this takes place in various venues between 17 to 19 July. See here for details.
Categories: Live review