Monthly Archives: July 2014

Dylan Howe: Subterranean- New Designs On Bowie’s Berlin

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It was my birthday the other week and I requested a copy of Ted Gioia’s The Jazz Standards- A Guide to The Repertoire. It is an excellent reference book and one that I will dip into with regularity.

In his introduction Gioia considers why he has felt unable to include very few recent compositions amongst the 250 plus tunes that he identifies for his opus. He concludes that: “The jazz repertoire is not as fluid as it once was and the same process of codification that has resulted in works such as The Real Book (a compendium of sheet music for widely recognised jazz tunes, or ‘heads’ as they are known in the trade) has also made it difficult for newer songs to enter the standard repertoire.”

I don’t suppose I’m alone in experiencing irritation when a classic 50’s or 60’s jazz album moves from a track that really has something to say to yet another hoary Broadway number (thank heavens John Coltrane never got round to recording a version of You’ll Never Walk Alone!). Occasionally a jazz artist will have a go with a modern popular song but mostly they draw on the standards.

So, I was intrigued when I read of Dylan Howe’s recording of tunes from David Bowie’s Berlin period. It was a nailed down certainty for my latest look at a contemporary jazz set.

I can remember listening to Low, fresh from the shops and in the possession of a mate who is the biggest Bowie fan I’ve ever met. The songs were great but it was the instrumentals on Side 2 that were so incredibly refreshing and different. There was a stark bleak beauty to them and we dived fathoms deep as we pondered their significance next to Buzzcocks, The Pistols and The Clash. There was a further selection of instrumentals on Heroes, while Lodger was a part of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, but is sadly, short on instrumental pieces.

This recording was a labour of love for Howe and he raised the money to undertake his project through a Kickstarter crowdfunding effort, which you can read about here.

So to the music. I’ve followed the song title with Bowie album that the original appeared on.

The album opens with Subterraneans (Low) and it is immediately apparent that this is going to be an exceptional recording, initially with Mark Hodgson’s wonderfully rendered double bass to the fore before Ross Stanley adds piano to the underlying layer of syths. Weeping Wall (Low) is as bleak and dolorous as the original before a tasteful piano solo that eases and offers hope, followed by a percussive break that reintroduces tension.

All Saints was a bonus track that did not appear on the original release of Low. This one is like Bowie meets the great quartet of John Coltrane. Julian Siegal and Brandon Allen’s saxophone work is exemplary, with Allen taking the solos. Some Are was recorded by Bowie during the Low sessions but didn’t make the cut for the original album either. It is another minor key piece with a subdued regal feel to it. The saxophonists join in at the midpoint.

The first of two takes on NeuKoln, NeuKoln- Night (Heroes) is next up and takes me in my imagination to the centre of a scurrying and bustling city centre that is unfamiliar and slightly menacing, where there may be danger down those side streets.

Art Decade (Low) seems to convey a sense of ennui and loss. In its long fade out it moves towards a meditative state of calm. Warszawa (Low) could be used as a soundtrack for a film of the aftermath of some destructive action until it takes on a jauntiness and swings out, bringing hope where Bowie left us with none.

Neukoln- Day (Heroes) is lighter than its cousin but it still conjures up an image of a grey, drizzly day, while Moss Garden (Heroes), ever a track I’ve returned to listen to, has obvious attractions for a drummer/percussionist and features Dylan Howe’s famous dad on koto, which is a stringed dulcimer-like instrument.

I’ve enjoyed repeated listens to Subterranean and recommend it strongly. I’m hoping that in due course, the Bowie fan I referred to above may give us a second opinion (I’ve sent him a copy).

Dylan Howe is presenting a series of performances in the UK in September featuring the great Andy Sheppard on tenor saxophone, so you are likely to get my opinion on how this comes over live, in a while.

The following short promo gives a flavour of some of the tracks and publicises the tour. To watch, click or touch the arrow.

The band etc: Dylan Howe (drums); Mark Hodgson (double bass); Ross Stanley (piano, synths); Julienne Siegal (saxophone); Brandon Allen (saxophone); Nick Pini (double bass: Neukoln night & day); Adrian Utley (guitar: Warazawa); Steve Howe (koto- Moss Garden). Released 2014. Recorded: Eastcote Studio, Motorik Studios, Pipe Dream Studios. Produced and Directed: Dylan Howe. Graphic Design: Sleeve photos Zoe Howe, Dylan Howe, Victoria Harley. Issued as Motorik MR1004

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What I’m Listening to: Week commencing 24 July 2014.

Thursday 24 July 2014
Went to see some live jazz (Derek Nash’s Protect The Beat) which you can read about here

Friday 25 July 2014

Listening to a forthcoming review album, which I hope to tell you about later this weekend.

Saturday 26 July 2014
At about 4pm I’d done all most of the weekend chores and it was a bit ‘Should I, shouldn’t I pop down to my local s/h record store? The result was: Activity 2 Passivity 0. When I got there no less than two rubies shone amidst the dust and eight English pounds released the following two CDs to my custody. I’m ‘Double well ‘appy’ as they say in these parts.
Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Himself (Riverside. 1957)
John Coltrane: One Down, One Up- Live At The Half Note (Impulse. 1965)
And..I’m still getting my head around the next review as I tap this out.
Later, playing a selection of tracks before settling down with one of Jimmy Smith’s lesser known:-
Jimmy Smith: Six Views of The Blues (Blue Note. Recorded 1958; released 1999)

Sunday 27 July 2014
My secret CD was
Dylan Howe: Subterranean (Motorik. 2014). You can read what I thought about it here

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Derek Nash + Protect The Beat: WMJazz at the 02. Thursday 24 July 2014

A twitter notification set me off to catch some jazz funk at the 02 last night. Derek Nash and Protect The Beat were playing and there would be no charge. The Dome is a strange place- always has been. I’ve seen my share of concerts in the main venue and I love the more intimate Indigo 2, which is a great place to watch music with its much smaller audience capacity.

However, apart from that, and even though it’s close to home it is not a destination that I would normally think of visiting. It is a bus ride from bustling central Greenwich and nobody I know would dream of popping down there on the off-chance of stumbling upon something interesting happening. I haven’t sampled any of the restaurants, or the cinemas and the trip up and over the roof lacks the drama of the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, in my opinion. It’s all a bit too corporate-American, a bit too tidy, safe and sanitised for my taste. I may be mistaken- but I guess The French Quarter in New Orleans, which I want to visit sometime could share some of the 02’s downside- hope I’m wrong.

Anyway, I got there to find that the complex was hosting a Christian revival meeting. I was going to say I would draw a veil over my view about that, but I’m not a Muslim either. It was unusual and if the 02 is a bit like heaven…well you can guess what I might possibly say next.

WMJazz is a fine venue. It is biggish street-level bar attached to the Water Margin Chinese Restaurant. It has a great small stage and a really gutsy in-house PA sound system.

There was only one problem, as apart from a few friends of the band I was one of only three customers. The performance start time came and went and I heard the band debating whether to play. Luckily for me they decided to go ahead.

Derek Nash is a thoroughly professional front man and he went about the proceedings with the same energy that would be appropriate for a megastar in the huge arena venue. Indeed, he put more into it than Stevie Wonder did when I saw him next door a couple of years ago.

Protect The Beat are his jazz funk project and very good at it they are too. At WMJazz he mainly played alto saxophone, with a few numbers on his serpentine 1920’s soprano and a smattering of tenor.

Dave Ital, who we last met with Derek Nash and the Leytonstone Festival R&B All Stars a couple of weeks ago was on guitar duties. Just to recap, he is a superb lead guitarist who can claw out the funkiest of chords and this gig provided even more evidence why he has caught the attention of the great Nile Rodgers. Arden Hart was on electronic piano/keyboard. He could play those sanctified Baptist sounds when required (and probably everything else with his eyes shut) but couldn’t be persuaded to uncase his trumpet. Drummer, Darby Todd has just spent a year on the road with The Darkness but we won’t hold that against him- although I’m sure a few of the Christians who slowly wandered in may have struggled with a few of those snappy little numbers from their album One Way Ticket To Hell. He has a huge kit, a big sound and he can knock out those polyrhythms when appropriate. The bass player, who had recently played alongside Robert Plant and was deputising for Winston Blisset, was also excellent and innovative- at one stage deliberately detuning one electric bass before shifting to another but I didn’t write his name down (may have been Bill though- cheers Bill!).

Musically, the band were deeply funky, playing their own material, with a nod to James Brown, Ronnie Laws, and early in the set, to the distant past when they took us for A Night In Tunisia. They also did a very 80’s cover of hoary old chestnut, Sunny and veered towards pop with a cover of Cold, one of the lesser known tunes from Annie Lennox’s Diva album.

The restaurant staff did sterling work on the promenading Christians. Many were called and a few chose to come in, swelling the congregation in the tabernacle of funk to about 30 souls. The 02 could probably support a successful jazz venue as the transport links are excellent and the WMJazz room is ideal but it will take a great deal of marketing and publicity if it is to get off the ground. Good luck to them though.

Although it was a performance marred by the tiny audience, the band put a great deal into delivering two high-quality sets and they showed themselves to be real troopers and consummate professionals. At the start, it was like having a command performance in my own parlour. For that I have to award them downwithit.info’s first ever, 9/10 on our rate a gig scale. There’s some YouTube footage of the band with a slightly different line-up playing at The 606 Club in 2013.

To play, click on or touch the arrow

I’ve got another of Derek Nash’s band incarnations in mind for a visit in the near future and it will be interesting to hear him perform in yet another style.

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What I’m Listening to: Week commencing 17 July 2014.

Saturday 19 July 2014
I’ve not listened to much recorded music so far this week.
London Jazz Collector has had a look at Jackie McLean’s Swing, Swang Singin’ set (Blue Note. 1962) and I played through my copy a couple of times so that I could add a comment to his blog here.

Tuesday 22 July 2014
Thelonious Monk: Monk’s Music (Riverside. 1957)

Joe Henderson: Inner Urge (Blue Note. 1965)

Wednesday 23 July 2014
Archie Shepp: Fire Music (Impulse. 1965)

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Leytonstone Festival R & B All Stars Live at East Side Jazz Club

When I started downwithit.info I was confident that I would be able to choose what I wanted to write about from my fairly sizeable collection of recorded music.

I was far less certain about writing about live acts, especially British based performers. I wasn’t too sure about where to start and I’d harboured something of a prejudice about the homegrown scene. There was only one way to deal with that, which was to get out and listen to some live music into the smaller venues that I prefer to cavernous barns.

I’d wondered about how the performers who had come out of the Jazz Warriors stable had fared and trying to answer that question led me to The East Side Jazz Club in Leytonstone. It wasn’t too far from home and the admission fee was moderate so in mid-May I made my first visit.

Denys Baptiste was calling the shots that night and I liked what I saw, so much so that I have now made five return visits.

There’s only one good thing to be said about prejudice. Generally speaking it is an imaginary chain that binds us in our heads and once recognised it is relatively easy to deal with. The music that I’ve heard at ESJC has been brilliant and it just makes me want to seek out more.

Over the summer I’m going to have to venture elsewhere because the ESJC lot head off to run jazz summer schools in France. I’ve already got somewhere in mind for next week and I’m looking forward to venturing elsewhere. But what of last night?

The final session of this season offered up The Leytonstone Festival R & B All Stars. Featuring members of Jools Holland’s Big Band, this was not a gig that I wanted to miss. I wasn’t disappointed

Four of the band, Derek Nash (saxophones), Dave Ital (guitar)’ Winston Rollins (trombone) and Chris Storr (trumpet) are also members of Jools Holland’s renowned R & B Orchestra, while Geoff GascoynePete (bass) and Pete Whittaker (organ) are masters of their instruments too. Of course, Clive Fenner was on drum duty and as in charge of his kit as ever.

Derek Nash was directing the proceedings. As a former saxophonist (albeit probably once ranked towards the very bottom of the 50,000+ tenor sax players in Great Britain) I take a keen interest in how my more successful rivals are doing. I’m always suspicious of saxophonists who double-up on other members of the saxophone family. Derek Nash had a tenor, alto and soprano with him and I was sure that his playing would be badly exposed on at least one. I was very wrong and he performed with total command of each of the three instruments. Having been listening to Archie Shepp and Dollar Brand’s Duet set quite often over the last few weeks and taking the view that it is marred by Shepp’s relatively weak reedy sound on that session, it was an absolute pleasure to hear Nash perform with strength, gusto and a full-bodied range.

He also led the band with aplomb and his introductions to the tunes were amusing and very informative. I intend to make it my business that it won’t be long until I see him play again.

The set was a cornocopia of jazz, mambo, Latin and funk numbers, many of which were original compositions. The horn section fills were as crisp and well-drilled as I would expect of pros who perform in an established big band and who probably communicate through some higher form of musical telepathy anyway (sorry- I must be thinking of Sun Ra’s Arkestra there).

One of the highlights was I’m Comin’ Home by Bob Dorough. It is a track that I had always admired but until Derek and Geoff spoke about him, I knew nothing of the composer. A John Schofield tune also impressed with its fire and funk and will lead me to look out for this guitarist who I had wrongly placed in an ECM ethereal pigeonhole

Geoff Gascoyne may turn out to be a drain on my pocket. He played the entire set on a bass ukulele, which is an instrument I’d never seen before but which is as cool as the cat’s pyjamas. I want one! Although I didn’t realise it, I had heard him play before, as he was with the excellent Everything But The Girl on their early 90’s Worldwide album and also with Georgie Fame. His bass playing was really engaging and I look forward to hearing him again, preferably on an acoustic double bass.

Guitarist Dave Ital was showcased on Pass The Peas by Maceo Parker and the JBs. He is currently working with Nile Rodgers, the musician who inspired me to put downwithit.info together and his deft alacrity up and down the fretboard showed why. ESJC is a little too restrained to resort to a spontaneous dance explosion but if it had, it would have been no less than this funky expedition cried out for.

Shut your eyes on the right number when Chris Storr solos and you could imagine you were listening to Miles Davis. He is really good. The clarity of his sound on both trumpet and fluegelhorn was impressive and, from a selfish personal perspective, the only way he could have topped his performance would have been if he had suddenly pulled the distinctive trumpet intro to Arthur Conley and Otis Redding’s Sweet Soul Music out of his bag (I’m sure it’s in there). Winston Rollins was equally assured on trombone while Pete Whittaker would have benefitted from a little more attack from a full Hammond Organ with Leslie speakers, rather than from the smaller scale instrument that he was playing tonight. When I listen to Hammond I like the whoosh from the Leslie’s and the sense that my fillings are in peril from the visceral power of a beast of a machine. Looking at Pete’s website it is clear that he regards the full sound as his preferred option- but a chopped down electronic keyboard is obviously more practical for gigs.

Clive Fenner anchored it all most ably although his use of the cowbell on the Latin numbers suggests that he may be considering re-locating his summer jazz school to one of the Italian Swiss Cantons (if there are any).

So all in all, I had another fine evening at ESJC, which now takes a break until 23 September. I’ll be aiming to get myself back there in the autumn.

This performance merits an 8/10 on my patented rate a gig scale. It gets as close to a 9 as can be without quite crossing into that rarified zone.

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What I’m Listening to: Week commencing 10 July 2014.

What am I actually listening to? In an attempt to maintain a list of the music I’m playing, I will be trying to keep a record of jazz that I am playing here at downwithit.info. As this is an opportunity for me to switch off and enjoy, I probably won’t offer too much by way of comment or appreciation in these posts. Nor will I list non-relevant plays by artists playing other styles of music.

A very quiet week so far.

Thursday and Friday 10 & 11 July 2014
Listening to the forthcoming contemporary sets up for review- which will be revealed when I have fully familiarised myself with them (one will be looked at in August). Regular readers may recall that I am writing about at least one new release each month, with a view to ensuring that downwithit.info doesn’t become a mausoleum of old recordings.

Looking further ahead, Abdullah Ibrahim plays the Royal Festival Hall as part of The London Jazz Festival in November and I’ve bought tickets (selling fast).

Saturday 12 July 2014
Late night listen to:-
Archie Shepp & Dollar Brand: Duet. (Denon 1980).
John Coltrane: Coltrane Plays The Blues (Atlantic. 1962).

Tuesday 15 July 2014
Yusef Lateef ‎– Psychicemotus. (Impulse. 1965).

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color. (Atlantic. 1975).

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Update: Marc Ribot Live At The Village Vanguard

I wrote about this live set from Marc Ribot in early June (here).

Downbeat have just reviewed it in their July issue, where it receives a rating of 4/5 stars and where John Corbett concludes:-

“It’s a sense of vanguardism steeped in history, nothing radical in itself, but building fruitfully on a venerable New York legacy, adding another chapter.”

I’m currently working on my review of the July contemporary set which arrived in the post on Wednesday.

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Harold Vick: Steppin’ Out

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In the jazz universe, some stars appear brighter than others, while others are not even visible to the naked eye. In pondering this, I began to read about cosmology, Hipparchus, Norman Pogson and perceived brightness. Then the hard maths formulas started to appear and I decided it was time to get back to the music here at downwithit.

Harold Vick barely registers as a footnote these days and, doesn’t even make the index in Cookin’, Kenny Mathieson’s superb book about hard bop.

I first became aware of HV through his tenor playing on Big John Patton’s Along Came John and then became determined to get hold of his sole Blue Note set as a leader. The CD is not difficult to track down, though it can attract a premium price.

Steppin’ Out is well worth the search since it features performances from John Patton and drum partner Ben Dixon as well as the great Blue Mitchell and Grant Green. All are on fine form.

Featuring five self-penned numbers and only one standard (Laura), Steppin’ Out represented a great opportunity for Vick. Our Miss Brooks is a blues with something of a burlesque quality that a gifted fan dancer could flutter her feathers to (I gather burlesque is almost respectable these days and taught through the medium of evening classes in some places). HV, the dexterous Grant Green and John Patton on Hammond, really contribute to the ambience.

Our Miss Brooks from YouTube follows:-

To play, press or click on the arrow.

Trimmed in Blue is a hard bop tune with a saxophone line that confirms that Harold Vick played alto before he played tenor and that he was well-versed in Charlie Parker’s styling. Blue Mitchell’s trumpet is bright and clear, indeed, the very epitome of clarion clarity.

Laura, a Raskin / Mercer composition follows. It is one of those melancholy sax and organ outings that could provide a soundtrack to a slow autumnal midnight walk along The Albert Embankment, while contemplating something sweet, yet lost. Then it goes into double time and new hope rises like the sun- or at least that’s one way you may imagine this piece perhaps? (The Editor says: “Shut up, immediately!”).

Dotty’s Dream is an organ-fuelled hard bop strolling tune with a fine finger-picking solo from Grant Green. The ending, when the horns return is nicely arranged. Next up, Vicksville is a bluesy soul-jazz lope with Blue Mitchell showing his skills and Harold Vick discretely exploring the full range of his tenor. Finally, Steppin’ Out, the title track, is a blues which sounds like it was a joy to play on. There are some tunes that bring a smile to the face and I feel sure the musicians were having a great time playing on this one.

Harold Vick went on to work, largely in a hard bop and soul-jazz context. He recorded seven other albums away from Blue Note as a leader, which I have yet to hear. Amongst them, his Caribbean Suite seems, perhaps, the most promising from the reviews I’ve read.

He also had another axe in his sack, having studied to degree level in Psychology, with a view to further training as a Clinical Psychologist. However, as far as I am aware, his musical career meant that he never realised that ambition. He also appeared in a couple of films, including Spike Lee’s School Days (and playing on the sound track of She’s Got To Have It). Sadly, he died of a heart attack, aged only 51, in 1987.

So there we are. Harold Vick was a gifted tenor saxophonist who has been overlooked but who still deserves to be listened to- especially in such stellar company as on Steppin’ Out.

The band etc: Harold Vick (tenor saxophone); Blue Mitchell (trumpet); Grant Green (guitar); John Patton (organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: 27 May 1963. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Joe Goldberg. Cover photos and design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 84138.

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What I’m Listening to: Week commencing 3 July 2014.

What am I actually listening to? In an attempt to maintain a list of the music I’m playing, I will be trying to keep a record of jazz that I am playing here at downwithit.info. As this is an opportunity for me to switch off and enjoy, I probably won’t offer too much by way of comment or appreciation in these posts. Nor will I list non-relevant plays by artists playing other styles of music.

Thursday 3 July 2014
John Coltrane: Live at The Village Vanguard. The Master Takes (Impulse 1961).

Harold Vick: Steppin’ Out (Blue Note1963).

Saturday 5 July 2014
Archie Shepp & Dollar Brand: Duet. (Denon 1980).

Harold Vick: Steppin’ Out (as above).

Listening time severely reduced over the weekend due to World Cup football and gardening duties.

Sunday 6 July 2014
Harold Vick: Steppin’ Out (as above).
Archie Shepp & Dollar Brand: Duet. (as above).

Monday 7 July 2014
Archie Shepp & Dollar Brand: Duet. (as above).
Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Live In Chicago. (Mercury 1957).
Grant Green: Live At The Lighthouse. (Blue Note. 1972)

Tuesday 8 July 2014
Jimmy McGriff. Blues For Mr Jimmy (Orig. Sue. 1965- mine Stateside CD)
The Horace Silver Quintet. Horace-Scope. (Blue Note. 1960).

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Byron Wallen live at East Side Jazz Club. 1st July 2014

East Side Jazz Club hosted yet another attractive gig as part of the weekly series at Tommy Flynn’s on Leytonstone High Road. Byron Wallen was featured but before I saw him I had to take care of the inner man as I was hungry. Thankfully the pub serves food downstairs (I’m glad it’s not available in the music room) and I was tempted by their very good battered cod, served in a huge portion with a freshly dressed salad and some proper chips. The new landlord is carrying on with a good menu and I’ll be eating here again.

After that I caught the end of the first set from Byron Wallen (trumpet) Simon Purcell (piano), Gary Crosby (bass) and ever-present Clive Fenner (drums). Bye Bye Blackbird, brought to mind the version on Miles Davis’s In Person Live At The Blackhawk, which was followed by a good solid rendition of Blue Monk.

Several days after the gig and the initial posting of this piece I realised that Byron Wallen opened the Meltdown performance of A Love Supreme with a Tibetan Horn and a fine trumpet and bass duet which you can read about here.

During the interval, on the big screen in the downstairs bar, the Belgium v USA World Cup match was heating up, but when the musicians returned, the fare upstairs was even better. The second set opened with a second Thelonious Monk composition, I Mean You, with each of the performers given space to express themselves. Indeed it was a very open and welcoming bandstand with Alexandra (surname awaited) guesting on alto saxophone on Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee.

I am fond of On Green Dolphin Street, when it is played well, as was the case tonight. There was even more of a treat when Cuban, Yelfris Valdes was invited to join in on a second trumpet. Byron’s playing had been very good up to that point but the addition of another excellent horn player pushed him on even further. His remarkable willingness to share the spotlight with such a talented exponent of the same instrument spoke volumes about Wallen’s great self-confidence and it leads me to ask you, the readership…

A question!

…Can you recall and inform us of any instances of Miles Davis allowing another trumpeter to play alongside him in an equal role? I know the famous story about Wynton Marsalis being told where he could go to when he attempted to take to the stage that Miles was ruling. There’s lots of space for comments here at downwithit, so don’t be shy.

Afterword: There’s a picture of Miles and Dizzy Gillespie playing together here-although I assume that Miles was the guest on that session.

Caravan was a tour de force with both leads trading ideas and alto player, Alexandra, growing in confidence with every note. Sadly though the clock turned and it was time for the closing number, the Billie Holiday ballad, You Don’t Know What Love Is.

This was another memorable visit to East Side Jazz Club, which was rounded off with a final, non-musical treat as I watched the captivating extra-time conclusion to the Belgium v USA game.

A further 7/10 performance rating is merited and somehow I expect that we won’t see many months pass without having witnessed Yelfris Valdes as featured artist at ESJC. For those of you that can’t wait there’s a small taste on YouTube:

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