Tag Archives: Live

Pharoah Sanders live in San Francisco: 12 January 2015

Regular readers may know that Pharoah Sanders is a saxophonist that I enjoy very much.

When checking to see if any UK dates are scheduled (sadly, none listed at present), I came across a recent live review by Gary Vercelli, which you can read here. The author was wondering if 74 year old Pharoah can still perform at a high level. His conclusion is that:-

Pharoah Sanders showed that age is just a number. He still negotiates the chord changes with ease and finesse and inner child is still very much alive!

That’s good news– hopefully we’ll see for ourselves later in 2015.

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Steve Williamson live at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho. 1st September 2014

The summer of 2014 has hosted the welcome re-emergence of top British saxophonist, Steve Williamson. Back in late-June he featured in the re-creation of A Love Supreme (which you can read about here) and then guested on Black Top One (here). Although both of these performances gave a glimpse of his talents I was eagerly awaiting an opportunity to hear him play his own material as a leader. When I read about the September gig at The Dean Street Jazz Club I contacted them immediately, to be at the head of the queue. I enjoyed his playing over 20 years ago and it would be fascinating to find out how he had developed in the intervening years.

This was his first gig as leader of his own band, playing his own set for well over ten years. Backed by Michael Mondesir on bass, Robert Mitchell, piano, with Seb Rochford providing the drums (and last encountered here on percussion duty with Polar Bear), he was in superb company and he told us of his delight to be sharing the stage with them.

The first set opened with the unusual time signature of the lengthy Soon Come, which allayed any concerns that he may have lost his edge on tenor saxophone. Cracked Earth was next and I pondered the difference between performers who play their own material, rather than drawing on standards. I concluded that it depends on the quality of the material and Steve Williamson’s has tensile strength throughout.

Waltz For Grace, so old a favourite that my copy is on a C90 cassette, followed. SW switched to soprano sax and his anthem featured London-based Sardinian vocalist Filomena Campus, who has a most incredible jazz voice. Some people just sing while a very few others make use of an incredible instrument that they are gifted with. Campus is part of this small second group and I hope it won’t be long before I see her deliver her own set, as I’m sure that would be a treat.

Mandy’s Mood which sounds like a nod to Freedom Jazz Dance to me, took us to the interval.

Wakening opened the second half and was followed by Gary Bartz’s Celestial Blues, Journey To The Truth and Water Like Water.

Williamson’s confidence and assurance increased with every tune and this band, who were solid and unwavering in their support, will be a joy to watch if they come your way. I’ll certainly be hoping to see more of them as the days draw in towards winter.

As I’m confident that there is a great deal more to come, I will rate this gig as a 7/10 performance and bid the man himself a huge ‘Welcome back! You’ve been missed’.

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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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Denys Baptiste live at East Side Jazz Club. May 13 2014

Many years ago I used to get myself along, on occasion, to The South Side Soul Club, which was hosted in a room above a busy bar. It wasn’t quite a function at the junction because it was next to Clapham Common tube station, rather than near the railway hub- but it was a damn fine Northern Soul venue. Indeed, I remember seeing a wonderous declaration of urban romance when a young woman wrote ‘I Love You Seth’ (or whatever he was called) in the talcum powder that the ruler of her heart had spread to ease his terpsichorean endeavours.

Glancing at London Jazz Collector’s fantastic blog the other day, I read that one of his correspondents had recommended the East Side Jazz Club. Two clicks on the keyboard later I had discovered that the venue was within easy striking distance of my home and that there was a great bill on the following Tuesday. Renowned tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste was set to appear, with Gary Crosby on bass. They were to be supported by club stalwart and resident drummer, Clive Fenner and Joe Armon-Jones on piano.

I’m always excited by a visit to a new club (doesn’t happen a great many times these days though), so off I went to Leytonstone searching for the young jazz rebels.

The short drive was rapidly completed and the venue was another great pub function room, which looked as though it had recently been redecorated. The extremely moderate admittance fee was duly surrendered and we were in.

The band were already on the stand and it was an absolute pleasure to hear great musicians who probably had never played together as a group before coming to terms with classic hard bop and ballads (OK, I’m well aware that Baptiste and Crosby have played together for years).

The first half encompassed a great version of God Bless The Child, Denys Baptiste’s sparkling take on Dear John, Freddie Hubbard’s adaptation of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and a calypso flavoured tune that made me think of a Sonny Rollins.

I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines because the opener for the second half was the Rollins signature piece, St Thomas, ever a favourite of mine. Denys Baptiste introduced it by saying that it was chosen as a direct result of a conversation he had during the interval.

I remain slightly puzzled by the next tune. It sounded like a speeded up version of Charlie Parker’s amazing Parker’s Mood- but then again, it could have been a Thelonious Monk composition. Whichever, it enabled venue debutant, Joe Armon-Jones to showcase his delightful piano playing talents. By this time the band were really working together, with Denys Baptiste and Gary Crosby showing themselves to be masters of their craft.

The evening closed with an adventurous take on Joe Henderson’s Inner Urge. It was a privilege to see such fine musicians conjuring the music from their collective imaginations. What the audience was watching was the essence of jazz. No four musicians have ever played that combination of tunes exactly the same way before. Nor will anyone ever again. In tangible terms, a fiver was paid but in real terms, what we experienced was priceless.

Special mention must be made of Clive Fenner, the resident drummer. I can’t imagine the levels of experience, skill and confidence his role, as an accompanist to the weekly changing cast of visitors, must require.

I didn’t win the raffle (a quid could deliver the choice between a serviceable bottle of Corbieres or Art Blakey Live at Cafe Bohemia on CD). Nor did I find the elusive young jazz rebels who were either preening themselves for a late Tuesday session in trend-central Hoxton with LJC’s fabled East London Jazz DJ Collective, or watching Leyton Orient win through to a Wembley playoff final down the road. What I did have was a fine time listening to amazing live music.

Whilst I don’t suppose Polar Bear will be appearing there anytime in the near future, I’ll be back there soon.

The East Side Jazz Club has a website which you can visit here.

Latest updates about the club are on Twitter @EastSJC

Denys Baptiste’s website is here

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