Monthly Archives: December 2014

downwithit.info: Jazz Gigs of The Year 2014

One of my New Year resolutions at the start of 2014 was to get myself out rather more to catch live Jazz performances. As the year ends it is time to take stock of what I saw and where I went.

A deep benchmark was engraved in February when legendary funk masters, Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley played at Ronnie Scott’s. Their performance was commented on here and I rated them with an 8/10. I was expecting a deep disappointment when they introduced a female vocalist- so many promise much, but deliver nothing. In this case my lack of faith was exposed and confounded. Robin McKelle was superb and is a real talent to catch (if she ever plays any where else other than France).

2014 was the year when I made my first visit to East Side Jazz Club in Leytonstone. Denys Baptiste featured one May evening and I was there to enjoy the first of six visits this summer.

I was assured that I would enjoy Gilad Atzmon and they were right. His powerful and intense soloing merited my second 8/10 rating of 2014. There were times when I that he was going to blow his alto sax apart, such is the forcefulness that he has on tap.

Another saxophonist also merited an 8/10 the ESJC. I’ve always harboured a strong mistrust of sax players who play several instruments from Adolphe Sax’s brood. They are usually adequate on one and dire on the rest. Derek Nash made me review that particular prejudice (Gilad Atzmon is a fine multi-reedsman too). Playing with the Letonstone R & B Allstars in an end of Summer season spectacular, I enjoyed his showmanship and that of the rest of a band which also featured Geoff Gascoyne on bass.

In addition to playing several members of the sax family, Derek Nash also fronts several bands, which he uses to showcase different repertoires. Following up on a gig he publicised on Twitter took me to a bar called The Water Margin at the 02 (Dome) in Greenwich in late July. I suppose all musicians have performed before small audiences, but that night saw Nash and his jazz funk outfit, Protect The Beat open to no more than three friends of the band and five civilians, myself included. After some deliberation amongst the band about whether to play or not, pure professionalism kicked in and the result was a performance which rated a rare 9/10. Nash is a very entertaining frontman and his joy encouraged his band mates to excel. Particular mention should be given to guitarist Dave Ital and drummer Darby Todd, but the whole show saw great musicians triumphing over a sadly meagre audience.

My home town of Macclesfield hosts a summer arts festival, which is growing year on year and it was there that I attended a rendition of Under Milk Wood, which was another memorable evening. On the same weekend I also saw a re-creation of A Love Supreme on London’s Southbank.

Unexpectedly, and for no particular reason, a hectic summer of gig-going gave way to an autumn in which I only got to three live Jazz performances. Dylan Howe merited the second of my two 9/10 ratings this year, while I was disappointed by Abdullah Ibrahim at London Jazz Festival, and Steve Wiiliamson‘s long overdue return to leading a band also gave me the opportunity to visit Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho for the first of what I hope will be many visits.

All in all I went to 14 jazz gigs, none of which rated lower than 6/10. Out of these, the downwithit gig of the Year 2014 was:-

Derek Nash and Protect The Beat at The Water Margin, for a triumph of brilliant professionalism against the odds.

Well done Derek and here’s to getting out and about again in 2015, with seeing another performance by Pharaoh Sanders as my New Year’s wish. Hope I will have lots to tell you about this time next year!

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Green Street: Grant Green

Green Street features Blue Note guitarist Green with just bass and drums in support and nowhere to hide. He doesn’t need to. It is a great performance, stripped down to basics, without anything that is remotely superfluous.

This early album, from 1961, was Grant Green’s second release on Blue Note, recorded just two months after Grant’s First Stand. The opener, entitled, naturally, Number 1 Green Street swings out with Green’s strong bluesy lines, which confirms that lead lines played with crisp precision by horn players were a major influence.

Monk’s Round Midnight was a track that everybody wanted to hear in 1961 and this version does not disappoint. I’m well aware that there are many collectors who have a strong preference for mono recordings. However, for my money, the stereo version of this track on a good stereo system is wonderful. My version is a high quality WAV file ripped to a Naim UnitiServe from the 2002 24 bit Blue Note RVG series remaster. I’ll be delighted and surprised if I ever hear the original vinyl first pressing over a system that sounds better.

Grant’s Dimensions is next up. Although based on a blues form, GG plays around with the structure and produces his own distinctive composition, with a perfectly crafted contribution from Tucker on bass. Take a listen now, courtesy of YouTube.

To play click on or touch the arrow

Green With Envy has a short sequence where Green plays the same note repeatedly, to the point where the listener begins to think that the track is stuck.

It isn’t.

Alone Together, is jazz standard, composed by silent film accompanists, turned lawyer, turned marketing exec, finally turned mega-successful composer, Arthur Schwarz. It has a teasing, slinky vibe to it and in the hands of many becomes dark and sombre, although these qualities don’t spring to mind on hearing GG’s treatment.

The RVG Edition CD has two bonus alternate takes of the two last two tracks.

The original sleeve notes were written by no lesser commentator than Leonard Feather.
It’s fair to say that Len was a fan of the early GG as he wrote:-
“Superlative piled on superlative can build a dangerously precipitous mountain. After you have hailed the most brilliant new this and the most remarkable new that, what words do you have left when a Grant Green comes along.”
Well called, Leonard!.

So pour a large glass of something you like, dim the lights, take some ‘me time’ and enjoy. Green Street is a great album from a guitarist with a fine discography. If you see it, grab yourself a copy.

The band etc.: Grant Green (guitar); ben Taylor (bass); Dave Bailey (drums). Recorded: 1 April 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Sleeve notes: Leonard Feather. Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84071.

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