Category Archives: Geoff Gascoyne

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.

By using the search box at the top of this page you will be able to look at content from over 140 separate posts for views and reviews of work by numerous modern jazz artists.

Likes(2)Dislikes(0)

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!

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

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.

Likes(3)Dislikes(0)