East Side All Star R & B Band: Live at East Side Jazz Club: 5 July 2016

East Side All Stars

With the holiday season fast approaching and jazz summer schools in the South of France beckoning the East Side Jazz Club hosted its (almost) end of season spectacular. Once again, this featured an all star band made up of three members of Jools Holland’s R & B Orchestra: Derek Nash (saxophones), Winston Rollins (trombone) and Chris Storr (trumpet) supplemented by Dave Ital on guitar, Geoff Gascoyne (bass), Pete Whittaker (organ) and the ever-present Clive Fenner (drums).

The irrepressible Derek Nash, musical director and MC for the evening, explained that the set would be showcasing the talents of Pete Whitaker on Hammond Organ and we would be visiting the work of The Incredible Jimmy Smith (hopefully without the rather spicy language that Smith occasionally used). Without further ado we were Back At the Chicken Shack, followed by I’m Comin’ Home by Bob Dorough.

Every member of the band is a great soloist and each was given plenty of space to show what they could do. As I said when I reviewed the same line up in the summer of 2014, Pete Whittaker was excellent on the Hammond emulator, although I would love to hear him play the real thing coupled with the power and presence of Leslie speakers, which can take your breath away. Jimmy McGriff’s Mod classic All About My Girl was great nonetheless.

An original Derek Nash composition, The Chant, took us into latin territory, with the audience, Storr and Rollins ably supplying the vocals. It was then time for Dave Ital to cut loose on guitar on the JBs signature piece, Pass The Peas. His inventive and very funky solo showed why he has shared a stage with Nile Rogers.

The first set closed with Joe Liggins The Honeydripper, the title track of Brother Jack McDuff’s 1961 Prestige album, which feature Grant Green on guitar. After such a hot performance audience and band were all ready for a long cooling drink.

Following the break Derek Nash introduced Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon, which I took a look at here in February 2016. Although we didn’t have either Lee Morgan or Tina Brooks in the house, Chris Storr (fresh from trumpet duties at Gregory Porter’s Glastonbury performance) and Nash were more than capable substitutes, although Pete Whittaker did not need to play long alarm notes to stop Derek Nash in the way Jimmy Smith had to do to Brooks on the original recording. After this we went down yonder to New Orleans and the funk of The Meters Cissy Strut. In a show of peak performances, the cutting contest, to see who could play the most intense solo, that pitted Rollins trombone against Nash’s tenor saxophone brought smiles to every face, including that of an otherwise very serious Chris Storr, who, having added his own highlights, savoured what he was hearing from stage right. The band were joined by feisty vocalist Jo Harman who will be appearing at BluesFest later this year and who supplied an extra dimension to the proceedings.

The night concluded with two final Jimmy Smith tunes. Nash, Storr and Rollins accepted the challenge of replicating Lalo Schifrin’s twelve piece brass section on The Cat with Nash seeming to channel the powerful sound of King Curtis who must have been looking down on Leytonstone last night (or maybe that’s just a flight of fancy from me), while Eight Counts For Rita reminded me that my Jimmy Smith collection is not quite complete as I don’t have his late career Dot Com Blues set yet.

Thanks to these great musicians for being willing to turn out for this suburban gig and all credit to Clive Fenner and colleagues for the calls made. It’s live performances of this quality that keep the music alive. It was another great evening at The East Side Jazz Club, where there is one final pre summer break chance to hear more great music when Simon Spillett appears with Ted Beaumont and Alec Dankworth on Tuesday 12 July.

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