Acting on a hot tip that I would probably enjoy the performance on offer at East Side Jazz Club, I rushed from a late visit to the dentist to watch Gilad Atzmon. It was a good job that I had just had a brand new filling as I spent the show grinning from ear to ear.
For me, great jazz involves musicians sparking off each other and creating an aural delight (sometimes visual too) that is a unique passage of time, never to be repeated in exactly the same manner. That happened in Leytonstone last night.
Gilad Atzmon is best known for his work on Alto saxophone but he also played soprano and clarinet here (apparently he is also a good baritone saxophonist and plays other less well known instruments too).
I got there a little late, towards the end of a beautiful ballad but was able to experience the complete renditions of Giant Steps and The Way You Are Tonight. Atzmon’s strong build offers him the option of playing with great power and this is supplemented with tremendous dexterity up and down the keys combined with an appreciation of playing with subtlety when that is required too.
I had seen Gareth Williams play in a trio as a support (to The Rebirth Brass Band, last September) at Ronnie Scott’s and tonight gave me a better opportunity to focus on his piano playing. His solos and accompaniments complemented the leaders work. In last night’s show I thought I heard numerous chords played by somebody who had benefitted from listening to Horace Silver for an extended period (maybe I’m wrong). However, I’m not saying that his keyboard work was derivative. It wasn’t- it was just very, very good.
There was a little less space for Simon Thorpe on double bass but when he did solo briefly his work was excellent. Hats off, as ever to house drummer Clive Fenner too.
After the interval there was one particular number which seemed to bring together all of the strengths of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, with passing references to A Love Supreme too. There’s a hard bop classic that sounds a little like the Postman Pat theme and that was dropped in too. Jess the cat would have loved it (PostScript: 24 hours later I’ve just realised that the tune was Mingus’s Boogie Stop Shuffle– shame on me, I call the excellent house Guinness in my defence!).
Although Gilad did not engage in a great deal of chat it was apparent that he is a character with great charisma who must be an amazing raconteur. It is quite rare to watch a musician who is selling his book alongside performanceCDs. If you want to know more about him, take a look on Wikipedia here, where you will read of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Robbie Williams, a novelist and a man who has courted major political controversy.
An evening of first-class playing closed with a rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which Gilad supplemented with what sounded like a tall story about the sad demise of trumpeter Woody Short.
A great night at ESJC gets a rating of 8/10 from me without hesitation. If you can catch a performance given by Gilad Atzmon in your neighbourhood, get yourself down there. I don’t think he will disappoint.