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Saturday at Wall2Wall Jazz Festival 2019, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 31/08/2019.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Saturday at  Wall2Wall Jazz Festival 2019, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 31/08/2019.

Ian Mann on live performances by the Alex Goodyear Bop Septet, Chube with Dennis Rollins, and the Sarah Gillespie Sextet, plus a screening of the Chet Baker biopic "Born To Be Blue".

Photograph of Chube with Dennis Rollins by Pam Mann


SATURDAY AT WALL2WALL JAZZ FESTIVAL, ABERGAVENNY

31/08/2019


FILM:
CHET BAKER - ‘BORN TO BE BLUE’


Today’s entertainment at the Melville Centre began with a first for the Festival, the screening of the recent Chet Baker biopic “Born To Be Blue”, starring Ethan Hawke.

The Festival’s first cinema screening was a joint venture with the hugely successful Abergavenny Film Society who regularly show ‘art house’ films to capacity audiences at the Melville Theatre. Such is the popularity of the Society that there is actually a membership waiting list.

Today’s jazz themed film played to a near full house comprised of Film Society regulars and hard core jazz buffs. I’d actually seen the film before at the Courtyard Arts Centre in Hereford a short time after its cinema release in 2015, but I was more than happy to see it again, having been very impressed by the work first time round.

Directed by Robert Budreau the film was shot in Canada and the UK and made its début at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The movie charts a period in the life of the celebrated American trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker, blending fact with fiction to create a cohesive narrative. Set in 1966 it documents the period when Baker was recovering from a severe beating that knocked out most of his front teeth and totally ruined his embouchure. In effect he had to learn how to play trumpet all over again.

The incident actually took place in 1968 but the movie brings it forward a couple of years. The film begins with Baker, by then an incurable heroin addict, being sprung from an Italian jail by a film director. He is hired to play himself in a movie documenting his earlier years as the young, handsome pin up boy of 1950s West Coast cool jazz.

This sequence includes black and white footage purporting to depict a 1950s Baker performance at New York’s famous Birdland jazz club with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis looking on. The film doesn’t shy away from Baker’s womanising and drug taking, subjects that are also tackled in this section of the film.

Baker strikes up a relationship with his co-star Jane (Carmen Ejogo), who is playing his ex-wife Elaine, in the fictional film, and it’s shortly after these two ‘get it together’ that Baker is beaten to a pulp outside a bowling alley by an irate drug dealer to whom he owes money. The film, designed to launch Baker’s ‘comeback’ is shelved.

The scenes where Baker takes the first tentative steps towards playing the trumpet again make for harrowing viewing, the images of blood on the mouth piece and all down the front Baker’s white singlet are not for the squeamish.

But for all his problems Baker displays a steely determination in his quest to play again. He and Jane return to Baker’s home state of Oklahoma and live for a while with Chet’s plain speaking mother Janet Laine Greene) and disapproving father (Stephen McHattie). Baker practices the trumpet and gets a job pumping gas at the local garage. The inevitable familial bust up sees Baker and Jane moving to California where they live in a camper van.

Baker rekindles his brittle relationship with his manager Dick Bock (Callum Keith Rennie). Gradually he returns to public performance via a residency in a local pizza parlour, which predictably doesn’t go well at first. Still having problems with his teeth a disguised Baker plays so badly at his first sit in that the bandleader tells him “you might want to practice more on your own first”.

The dental and embouchure problems force Baker to concentrate more on his singing, and in the intervening years his distinctive, fragile vocals have become as well known as his trumpet playing.

Once the West Coast jazz public become aware that Baker is playing again the pizza parlour sessions eventually take off and Dizzy Gillespie’s promoter arranges for Baker to play a prestigious gig at Litany Studio, the performance being recorded for a live recording.

In the meantime Baker’s drug dependency, initially inspired by Charlie Parker’s much publicised heroin addiction, remains a problem. Placed on a rehabilitation programme involving the heroin substitute methadone his progress is monitored by Probation Officer Reid (Tony Nappo), whose remit also involves ensuring that Baker is in gainful employment. This leads to some predictably prickly encounters between Reid, Baker and Bock, with Reid eventually consenting to Baker concentrating on music full time.

The Litany Studio gig, which includes footage of Baker’s most famous cover, “My Funny Valentine”, effectively his signature song, is a triumph. Gillespie himself (Kevin Hatchard) is in attendance and suggests that Baker is now ready to complete his comeback by returning to New York and playing Birdland once more.

But the film isn’t just about Baker’s musical career. It’s also a love story chronicling the affair between Baker and Jane, the latter a fictional amalgam of several of the women in Baker’s life.
As Jane struggles to forge a successful acting career, still difficult for a woman of colour in 1960s America, she also has to act as the anchor for the troubled Baker. The couple become ‘engaged’ with the ring being a valve ring from Baker’s trumpet, which Jane wears around her neck on a chain.

Baker’s meeting with Jane’s parents ends in predictably acrimonious fashion and Jane refuses to accompany him to New York, putting her own career first as she attends a Hollywood audition.

The final section of the film is set in Birdland where a nervous Baker finds himself out of methadone and succumbs to the temptation of injecting himself with heroin. Eventually Bock persuades him to take to the stage, watched once more by Gillespie and a sceptical Davis. The thorny real life relationship between Baker and Davis has been much documented and is common knowledge to jazz fans.

Finding her audition cancelled Jane flies to New York and enters the club as Baker is performing his opening number, inevitably “Valentine”. However a visit to his dressing room results in her seeing the drug taking paraphernalia. This represents the final straw and she removes the valve ring, handing it to Bock, and storms out of the club. Baker watches it all from the stage.

“Valentine” is a triumph, with even Davis nodding in approval as the audience applaud rapturously. Baker announces the next tune, “Born To Be Blue”.

Roll credits.

“Born To Be Blue” is an excellent film and the audience at Abergavenny were transfixed by this semi-fictionalised account of a chapter of Baker’s story. Whether they actually ‘enjoyed’ it is a moot point. Perhaps because of its Canadian origins it doesn’t shy away from ending the film on a sad note. This wasn’t your typical ‘Hollywood Ending’ and the film was all the more convincing as a result. The sudden ending, with Baker calling the tune that gives the film its title, also represented a neat touch and was very clever.

I’d forgotten just how grim the film is in many ways. It pulls no punches with regard to drug taking and violence while the language was authentically earthy throughout. It certainly doesn’t glamorise Baker’s lifestyle and his very real problems.

Hawke gives an exceptional performance, looking very much like his subject, and his singing voice is heard, very convincingly,  on some of the performances. The musical score for the film was written by David Braid and the trumpet for the audio performances was played by Kevin Turcote. Hawke himself took trumpet lessons and also studied video footage of Turcote, allowing the actor to mime convincingly during the shoot.

In real life Baker remained dependent on heroin for the rest of his life. He moved to Europe and continued to record frequently and tour widely, basically performing to fund his drug habit. In 1988 he fell to his death from a hotel window in Amsterdam. He was aged just fifty nine.

Today’s screening represented a highly successful collaboration between Black Mountain Jazz and Abergavenny Film Society and it is to be hoped that similar collaborations will take place in the future, either on a regular BMJ club night, or more likely at next year’s Wall2Wall.

For further information on Abergavenny Film Society please visit;
http://www.abergavennyfilmsociety.com/


ALEX GOODYEAR’S BOP SEPTET

The first live music of the day was provided by a septet led by the young Cardiff based drummer Alex Goodyear.

A product of the Jazz Course at the Royal Welsh College of Music (RWCMD) Goodyear had impressed on his earlier visits to BMJ and Wall2Wall as a member of Sheek Quartet, co-led by singer Sarah Meek and pianist Guy Shotton, and as part of vocalist Becki Biggins’ quartet.

Goodyear’s rhythm partner at these events had been bassist Nick Kacal who had led his own group Guerillasound at Wall2Wall in this very room the previous evening. The new group had delivered an excellent performance, a genuine Festival highlight, and Goodyear’s contribution had been a big part of that as he lined up alongside Kacal, guitarist Nicolas Meier and violinist Richard Jones, with guest vocalist Meek joining the group for a couple of numbers.

Today the popular Goodyear had been invited to bring his own band to Wall2Wall. With a couple of changes to the advertised line up the septet included a good blend of youth and experience with comparative ‘old hands’ Gareth Roberts (trombone) and Ashley John Long (double bass) being joined by RWCMD youngsters Daniel Newberry (tenor sax), Coren Sithers (alto), Thom Voyce (trumpet & flugel) and Michael Blanchfield (piano).

As the group’s name suggests they specialise in music from the classic hard bop era and for today’s event Goodyear selected a programme consisting entirely of compositions by the great Wayne Shorter.

In keeping with the era to which they were paying homage the band were suitably suited and booted, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Gareth in a suit before!

The septet commenced with “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” from Shorter’s classic “Speak No Evil” album. A slightly hesitant unison theme statement led to a fiery trumpet solo from Voyce plus further impressive outings from Newberry, Blanchfield and Roberts.

Voyce moved to flugel for “Wild Flower” which contained an opening solo from Blanchfield that was both expressive and inventive. The young pianist had previously impressed at various RWCMD events at Brecon Jazz Club and on the evidence of today’s performance he looks set to become a major new voice on his chosen instrument. His interplay with the leader’s drums was particularly impressive and Goodyear was also to enjoy a more extended solo drum feature.

The classic “Infant Eyes” represented the opportunity for Roberts to demonstrate his remarkable abilities as an interpreter of ballads on the trombone, his tone warm, rounded and commendably tender, using the plunger mute to soften, rather than coarsen his sound. Blanchfield again impressed with a lyrical piano solo, while the leader’s sensitive brushwork was a feature throughout.

“And now for something completely different” said Goodyear as he introduced “Witch Hunt”, the tricky contours of the piece threatening to trip the players up. Sithers, who had first appeared at Wall2Wall as a seventeen year old back in 2016, took his first solo of the night on alto and his playing was very well received. Further solos came from Voyce on trumpet, then Newberry, really digging in on tenor, and finally BMJ favourite Long at the bass.

The next item was something of a tour de force, a segue of the Shorter tunes “Dance Cadaverous”, “House Of Jade” and “Deluge”, the last two sourced from Shorter’s classic 1965 Blue Note album “Juju”.
“Cadaverous” included solos from Sithers, also a talented pianist, on alto, and from Voyce on flugel.  A passage of unaccompanied piano from Blanchfield then led into the ballad “House Of Jade”, which included features for Roberts on muted trombone and Sithers on alto, his solo leading to a solo sax passage that provided the link to “Deluge”. Here the energy levels were increased as Newberry and Voyce went head to head, stretching out powerfully on tenor and trumpet respectively, as well as working in tandem on the heads. Newberry had led his own quintet, a band that included both Voyce and Long, at the 2018 Festival and was making a welcome return.
This complex segue had featured some terrific playing and the septet were rewarded with a great reception from a small but knowledgeable and highly enthusiastic audience.

To close the septet tackled “E.S.P.”, Shorter’s composition for Miles Davis and the title track of the trumpeter’s 1965 album for Columbia. This gave the opportunity for all the horn players to demonstrate their chops with concise solos coming from Roberts on trombone, Sithers on alto, Newberry on tenor and Voyce on flugel. These were followed by a series of fiery saxophone exchanges between Newberry and Sithers, the whole being driven by Goodyear’s dynamic, Blakey-esque drumming.

This was an excellent performance presided over by the ever enthusiastic Goodyear, a puckish figure behind the kit. All of these musicians are popular figures with South Wales jazz audiences and many are likely to return in various guises again next year.

I predict a bright future for Alex Goodyear, with national recognition a possibility if he should ever decide to make the move to London.


CHUBE featuring DENNIS ROLLINS

Wall2Wall 2019 was very much about returning heroes (and heroines) and this unique collaboration between harpist Ben Creighton-Griffiths and his trio Chube with the great trombonist Dennis Rollins was one of the most keenly anticipated events of the entire Festival.

Cardiff based Creighton-Griffiths has established the Welsh harp as a valid jazz instrument, both through his solo performances and with his exciting Chube trio featuring Aeddan Williams on acoustic and electric bass and the unrelated Matthew Williams on drums.

Creighton-Griffiths first appeared at Wall2Wall in 2016 when he played a solo set in the bar that was very well received. Among the onlookers were the musicians Christian Garrick, David Gordon and Dennis Rollins, who were all hugely impressed, with Rollins declaring “I want to work with this guy!”.

Having made an impression with his performance in the bar Creighton-Griffiths returned later in the year to the more formal setting of the Melville Theatre as he played a second solo set as part of a double bill with Duski, the band led by Cardiff based bassist and composer Aidan Thorne.

A further solo show in the bar at Wall2Wall 2018 saw Creighton-Griffiths making reference to his ‘electro-fusion’ trio Chube, a prospect that intrigued everybody. Sure enough Chube were soon invited to play a BMJ club night and absolutely wowed the audience with their performance in the Theatre in March 2019. The trio’s self titled EP, which features much of the music played both in March and today, represents vital and highly enjoyable listening.

Dennis Rollins has also been a regular and popular visitor to BMJ having brought his Velocity Trio to both the Club and Festival in recent years. Velocity’s unique line up of trombone, Hammond organ and drums/percussion suggests that Rollins likes playing in unusual instrumental configurations, so this alliance with Chube seemed like a very natural move for him.

With Creighton-Griffiths doubling on keyboards there was a direct link between the music of the two bands and today’s performance comprised of material sourced from the repertoires of both Chube and Velocity Trio. If Chube’s tunes predominated this was partly because they had more members numerically, but also because the accommodating Rollins, an acclaimed jazz educator, was happy for his youthful collaborators to be given their head.

Things kicked off with “Shift”, the opening tune from the Chube EP and one which emphasised the ‘electro-fusion’ element of the trio’s sound. With Creighton-Griffiths playing both synthesiser and electric piano in addition to harp this was music that embraced jazz, rock and electronics. Rock and funk rhythms drove the piece, with Creighton-Griffiths soloing on synth.

“Black Orpheus”, written by the Brazilian composer Luiz Bonfa, has been part of Ceighton-Griffiths’ solo repertoire. Here the harp was more in evidence as Creighton-Griffiths soloed on the instrument. Aeddan Williams featured on melodic electric bass and Rollins found more space within the music as he delivered his first full length trombone solo.

From the Chube EP “Chrysalism” was the first tune that the trio wrote collaboratively. Tonight it was introduced by a dialogue between harp and double bass before Aeddan switched to electric to help provide the grooves that fuelled Rollins’ trombone solo.

With the members of the quartet based in different parts of the country (Cardiff, London, Doncaster) finding time to rehearse had been difficult. However with Rollins having been ensconced in Abergavenny since Thursday time was found for some intense wood-shedding on the days prior to the concert. The members of Chube opted to tackle two items from Rollins’ Velocity Trio programme commencing with “The Rose”, a song written by Amanda McBroom and made famous by Bette Midler. This was introduced by a duo of harp and trombone with subsequent solos coming from Creighton-Griffiths on harp, Aeddan Williams on melodic double bass and finally Rollins on trombone, his warm tone bringing out the full beauty of McBroom’s melody.

Next came the trombonist’s “Symbiosis”, the title chosen to express the deep musical understanding between the members of the Velocity Trio, a quality also shared by the members of Chube and their illustrious guest. Here Creighton-Griffiths’ keyboards simulated the sound of the Hammond as he soloed. Meanwhile Matt Williams enjoyed an extended drum feature. Following the performance Rollins praised his young band mates, complementing them on expertly negotiating the complex changes of meter that characterised the piece.

It was back to the Chube repertoire for “Interlude”, another tune from their eponymous EP. Here bass and drums were very much to the fore as Creighton-Griffiths coaxed a range of colours and textures from his keyboards.

Creighton-Griffiths revealed that the new tune “Ligma” had been played on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Now programme as part of the regular ‘BBC Introducing’ feature. It’s good to hear of the guys getting some much deserved national recognition. Perhaps because of its newness this piece was played by the core Chube trio as Rollins sat out. Bright and melodic, but with tight grooves, the performance featured Creighton-Griffiths doubling on harp and keys while Aeddan soloed on electric bass.

Rollins rejoined the group for their take on the Outkast hit “Hey Ya”, which saw Creighton Griffiths carrying the melody on harp as Aeddan moved to double bass. Rollins’ warm toned trombone solo was complemented by Creighton-Griffith’s harp counter melodies in this unique interpretation of the song.

“Salty Tongue”, another new Chube original added a hint of hip hop courtesy of Matt Williams’ broken beats, but it was the quartet’s version of Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” that really brought the house down. This had been a big crowd pleaser when the trio played it back in March. With Rollins on board as well it was irresistible as Matt Williams again nailed that John Bonham drum groove and Creighton-Griffiths deployed pedals to conjure fuzzed up, heavily distorted sounds from the harp. Aeddan then took over the melody on monstrous electric bass before Rollins’ authentically bluesy trombone soloing finally took the tune into another dimension. Appropriately the piece was played in front of the Chicago banner from BMJ’s ‘Jazz Through The Ages” exhibition.

Next came the Chube composed companion piece “When The Reggae Breaks” with its quasi-Caribbean grooves generated by keys, drums and electric bass and with Rollins adding Rico style trombone.

To close we heard Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” played in Headhunters style, with Aeddan on electric bass and with solos from Rollins on trombone and Creighton-Griffiths doubling on both keyboards, with Rollins also tapping out rhythms on cowbell.

A near capacity audience gave this unique collaboration a terrific reception and an encore was inevitable. Here Rollins pulled rank and took charge, co-ordinating an audience clap along on his infectiously funky tune “Boneyard” as the concert ended in a party atmosphere. Solos here came from Aeddan on double bass, Creighton-Griffiths on synth, Rollins on trombone and Matt Williams with a suitably rousing drum feature.

This gig was another triumph and a total vindication of the decision of Chube and Dennis Rollins to work together. Musical skill combined with a genuine sense of give and take, and the quality of the playing and writing was complemented by the charismatic presence of the ebullient Rollins.

Criticisms were few, I would have liked to have heard a little more harp, Creighton-Griffiths seems to specialise increasingly on keyboards these days, but this is perhaps inevitable given the primarily electric nature of the Chube trio. Nevertheless it’s the presence of the harp that makes this trio so unique, something they’d do well to bear in mind.

That said I predict that Chube’s star will continue to rise. They have the potential to appeal to a broad audience, including adventurous rock listeners.

Jazz, rock and electronics were all promised, and all were brilliantly delivered by this unique quartet, an alliance that may yet prove to be more than just a one off.


SARAH GILLESPIE SEXTET

The final event of the evening featured the music of another artist who has graced the stages of BMJ and Wall2Wall on numerous occasions. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Sarah Gillespie has visited Abergavenny many times, often in the company of her one time mentor Gilad Atzmon.

However since Mike Skilton teamed her with pianist Kit Downes at a BMJ promoted event at Brecon Jazz Festival back in 2012 Gillespie has increasingly stepped out of Atzmon’s shadow.

Her most recent album release, “Wishbones”, released in late 2018 features a brand new band, led by Downes and featuring bassist Ruth Goller and drummer James Maddren. Substantial guest contributions also come from guitarist Chris Montague and trumpeter Laura Jurd.

Tonight’s event was billed as the “Welsh Launch of Wishbones” and Gillespie brought along a stellar sextet of leading London based jazz musicians. Only Montague remained from the album personnel but the line up included such jazz heavyweights as Tom Cawley on piano, Dave Hamblett at the drums and Led Bib’s Liran Donin on double bass. Jurd’s role was filled by Nick Smart on trumpet and flugel, Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music and Jurd’s former mentor.

Although Gillespie works extensively with jazz musicians her music is hard to categorise. Her evocative and poetic lyrics encourage comparisons with such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. There’s an exotic, Bohemian quality about the Anglo-American Gillespie that is also mirrored in her songs. Her sharply observed lyrical images are complemented by a strong, left leaning social conscience.

Another large audience crowded into the Melville and again there was a palpable air of anticipation about the forthcoming performance. Gillespie and her Rolls Royce of a band didn’t disappoint.

Seated at the front Gillespie played acoustic guitar throughout, a significant part of the framework musically as well as vocally. She sang with her customary passion and power, although in the live environment the full impact of her words was sometimes lost – no blame attached here, it’s just that sometimes it’s difficult to pick up things lyrically at gigs.

This is however a minor complaint in a performance comprised mainly of “Wishbones” material and which commenced with “Russian Interference”, a song depicting the typical human proclivity of blaming a single outside force for all of life’s misfortunes. Here Smart on flugel and Montague on electric guitar provided the instrumental solos. Both impressed throughout the evening with their fluent and pertinent contributions as soloists.

Tonight dedicated to Boris Johnson, to a knowing laugh from the crowd, “Coup D’Etat” raised the energy levels with Gillespie’s vivid lyrical imagery and powerful singing augmented by further incisive solos from Smart and Montague, the latter deploying a slide.

Again sourced from “Wishbones” Gillespie’s evocative arrangement of the traditional American ballad “Moonshiner” saw Smart sitting out as Montague again took the instrumental plaudits on guitar.

Next came a couple of dips into the back catalogue starting with the catchy “Sugar Sugar” from Gillespie’s previous album “Glory Days”, with a returning Smart again impressing on flugel.

The perennial crowd pleaser “How The Mighty Fall” followed, a song sourced from Gillespie’s stunning 2009 début “Stalking Juliet”. Cawley was given his first solo of the night here, alongside Montague on guitar.

Returning to the “Wishbones” repertoire “Ballad Of Standing Rock” tackled environmental issues and the building of the Delta Access Pipeline in Gillespie’s home state of North Dakota. Sung from the point of view of a construction engineer working on the project this was an atmospheric ‘story song’ that saw the instrumentalists painting ‘sound pictures’ to complement Gillespie’s rich lyrical imagery, with Smart once more excelling on flugel.

Humour has always been an important component of Gillespie’s lyric writing and of her live performances. The audience loved “Susannah Threw A Helicopter”, a song based on the nursery school reports of Gillespie’s young daughter.  The song didn’t shy away from how vicious young children can be towards one another, there was theft, violence and territorialism in these tales, reflections of the adult world these children will grow into.  Most songs written about children are pretty sentimental and cringe worthy -  with her balance of realism and tenderness, laced with a sharp and sly humour, Gillespie avoided falling into that particular trap.

“Wishbones” itself, a typically twisted Gillespie love song, was performed as a quintet with Smart sitting out. This offered Montague, who impressed throughout the evening, to cut loose once more on guitar.

Gillespie has had a book of poetry published, “Queen Ithaca Blues”. One item from this collection has now been set to music. “Lonely Hearts Sads” presented a list of fictional ads from the lonely hearts columns, the wordplay variously clever,  vicious, surreal and laugh out loud funny. The music that accompanied it was an exaggerated blues, with the dialogue between Montague’s guitar and Smart’s flugel an integral part of the arrangement.

“You Win” was introduced by Gillespie solo, the singer accompanying herself on acoustic guitar.
It was a welcome reminder of her instrumental abilities. With Smart again sitting out the song, with its hooky chorus, was again played in quintet format with Montague again the featured soloist.

Cawley was invited to introduce “Babies And All That Shit” at the piano. “Don’t get too jazzy” Gillespie warned him, “I can’t handle that”.  It’s always been a moot point as to whether Gillespie is actually a jazz singer, but she habitually works with top class musicians and jazz audiences love her, so in that sense I guess that she must be. That said her appeal extends far beyond the usual jazz demographic. Dylan fanatics, in particular, are rather prone to Gillespie’s music.

Gillespie’s “love letter to my late mother”, the rollicking title track of the “Glory Days” album, took us storming into the home straight. This was followed by “Lucifer’s High Chair”, another favourite from the back catalogue that first appeared on the 2010 album “In The Current Climate”.

The inevitable encore saw the band tearing through “Million Moons”, another classic from Gillespie’s début that saw Smart excelling on flugel once more.

Another packed house at the Melville gave Gillespie and her band another terrific reception. Chube and Rollins, followed by the Gillespie Sextet had constituted a superb evening of music making, in boxing terms the old one-two, a terrific combination.

It was difficult to believe that neither Donin nor Smart had ever played with Gillespie before this evening. These two late subs both acquitted themselves superbly, with Smart particularly impressive as a soloist. Montague, the only musician who had actually featured on the “Wishbones” recording, also delivered some inspired solos and generally seemed to function as Gillespie’s musical ‘right hand man’.

I’m not sure if Donin and Hamblett had worked together before but as a rhythm section they were right on the money, combining to give the music an irresistible momentum and providing a sturdy platform for the instrumental soloists. Cawley, standing in for Kit Downes, kept a relatively low profile and it would have been nice to have heard a bit more from him as a soloist, as impressive as Montague and Smart were. Nevertheless Cawley’s piano was often at the heart of the music.

If this was Gillespie’s ‘second string’ goodness knows what the first team must be like. Make no mistake, this was a superb all round team performance with the charismatic Gillespie at its centre.

My thanks to Sarah, Chris and Liran for speaking with me afterwards. Always a pleasure to talk to you guys.

The Saturday programme at Wall2Wall habitually delivers the best music of the Festival and this year was no exception with both Chube/Rollins and Gillespie delivering in spades. There was also much to enjoy about the Shorter themed set from Alex Goodyear and his band of local heroes, while the screening of the excellent Chet Baker film opened up another direction for Wall2Wall to explore. Pretty much an excellent day all round.


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