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Saturday at wall2wall Jazz Festival, The Swan Hotel, Abergavenny, 31/08/2013.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Saturday at wall2wall Jazz Festival, The Swan Hotel, Abergavenny, 31/08/2013.

A diverse programme that didn't contain a single dud despite the disparity of the styles on offer. Every act delivered in its own way and offered evidence that jazz is indeed a very broad church.

Saturday at Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, The Swan Hotel, Abergavenny, 31/08/2013.


Photograph of Brass Jaw sourced from http://www.blackmountainjazz.co.uk


The two day Wall2Wall event represented the first festival to be staged by the local jazz society Black Mountain Jazz. The event took place at BMJ’s HQ the Swan Hotel with performances alternating between the upstairs Club Room, the base for BMJ’s regular club nights, and a specially constructed Marquee Venue in the hotel car park. With half hour intervals between performances this was indeed pretty much “wall to wall”  jazz with seven performances taking place on each day of the festival. A richly varied programme featured both local heroes and nationally known names and promoter Mike Skilton is to be congratulated on the admirable diversity of a programme that didn’t contain a single dud despite the disparity of the styles on offer. Every act delivered in its own way and offered evidence that jazz is indeed a very broad church.

The festival kicked off at 10.15 am with a free performance in the marquee venue with the Scottish brass quartet Brass Jaw giving a guided tour of “Jazz Through The Ages” and playing in a variety of jazz styles. This was the first of two community events intended to introduce local residents to jazz and the work of BMJ. As I was commuting from home it was difficult to get to Abergavenny early enough to catch more than the last few minutes of these performances but I was to see a lot more of Brass Jaw later in the day but I’ll come to that in due course.

CHRISTIAN BREWER QUARTET

The first ticketed performance in the Club Room featured London based alto saxophonist, composer and educator Christian Brewer who, like many of the other festival artists, was a previous visitor to BMJ. Today he linked up with a classy house band assembled by local drummer Phill Redfox O’Sullivan that also featured Swansea based musicians Jason Ball (guitar) and Alun Vaughan (six string electric bass). 

As this was effectively a “guest soloist plus pick up band” situation it was perhaps not surprising that the programme consisted entirely of jazz and bebop standards. However the tunes were well chosen, an interesting selection that allowed the fluent Brewer plenty of room for manoeuvre and with ample opportunity for the Wales based musicians to express themselves too.

The quartet’s version of pianist McCoy Tyner’s “Blues On The Corner”  quickly set their stall out with Brewer soloing confidently and eloquently and with Ball and Vaughan following suit.

Ball went first on Edward Redding’s “Sound For Sore Ears”, again proving himself to be a versatile and imaginative soloist with a contemporary jazz guitar style that is very much his own and doesn’t borrow too obviously from big names such as Metheny or Frisell. Brewer followed him on alto and we also heard from Vaughan, a Pastorius/Swallow inspired bassist who solos melodically but also lays down a propulsive groove. Swansea based it’s likely that he’s also been influenced by the great Laurence Cottle. Brewer was clearly very much into what his colleagues were doing, coming to sit in the audience as they took their solos and nodding his head appreciatively.

Brewer switched to soprano for “That Old Devil Moon” and also proved to be an inspired soloist on the straight horn, dancing lightly above Vaughan’s springy grooves. Brewer clearly also enjoyed Vaughan’s subsequent dialogue with drummer O’Sullivan. 

After much shuffling of scores the quartet slowed things down with a delightful reading of Tadd Dameron’s ballad “If You Could See Me Now” with Brewer’s expressive alto solo followed by the thoughtful and tasteful guitar of Ball and the languid electric bass of Vaughan.

Jobim’s “Triste” added a summery bossa/samba feel to the proceedings that perfectly matched the sunny weather that the festival was lucky enough to enjoy. Brewer, Ball and Vaughan were all featured here, prompted by O’Sullivan’s colourful and imaginative drum work. At this point the drummer was worried by a wasp, a recurring theme for musicians throughout this late summer festival.

Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” proved to be a fun item for the musicians to stretch out on with solos once again from Ball, Brewer and Vaughan and with Brewer trading choruses with O’Sullivan. This interesting interpretation was great fun for the listeners too.

The standard “Sweet And Lovely” proved to be just that with Vaughan’s leading off the solos followed by Brewer on alto and Ball on guitar.

The final piece saw Brewer take up the soprano again for a blues in F that incorporated the theme from “Billie’s Bounce” . Ball adopted a more obvious blues tone on the guitar, his solo followed first by Vaughan and then by Brewer, fleet fingered and mercurial on the soprano. O’Sullivan climaxed the piece with a series of drum breaks, as co-ordinator of a fine house band it was perhaps appropriate that he had the final word.

Although there was nothing particularly cutting edge here I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. Brewer proved to be an assured and fluent soloist on both of his chosen horns and the house trio also impressed with their accomplished accompaniment and imaginative soloing. It was the first time I’d seen Brewer perform live, although I have covered him on disc, and I was highly impressed. An excellent start to a very full day.

ZOE SCHWARZ BLUE COMMOTION

Opening the programme at the Marquee Venue was Blue Commotion, the six piece group fronted by vocalist Zoe Schwarz. The band neatly straddles the boundaries between blues and jazz playing a mixture of blues standards and original songs rooted in the blues tradition but with plenty of room left for the instrumentalists to stretch out and improvise. Joining Schwarz were guitarist Rob Koral,  organist Pete Whittaker and drummer Paul Robinson. Alun Vaughan did a fine job of filling in for Blue Commotion’s regular bass player who is currently too unwell to travel and the group was completed by Si Genaro on harmonica and vocals. The hyperactive harpist is definitely the group’s wild card, a larger than life character credited as “entertainer” on the sleeve of the band’s latest album “Good Times”(2012).

Schwarz and Koral (also her husband) have a long standing relationship with the 33 Record label and I’ve previously reviewed the original “Blue Commotion” album (2011), the more intimate duo recording “Celebration” (2009) and 2012’s trio album “Slow Burn” made in conjunction with saxophonist Ian Ellis. All are classy and sophisticated pieces of work with the high production values one has come to expect from 33. However in a live context I was pleasantly surprised by just how raw and exciting Blue Commotion sounded with Schwarz’s powerful vocals well supported by the work of some of the UK’s top instrumentalists. 

The sextet kicked off with their version of Etta James’ “It Must Be Love” with Schwarz’s authentic blues voice augmented by fine solos from Genaro, Koral and Whittaker on wailing Hammond.

Koral is a highly versatile guitarist with a thorough command of jazz, blues and rock styles. During the early 80’s he was a member of the fondly remembered fusion group Sketch fronted by vocalist Sue Hawker. Koral and Hawker still maintain a song writing partnership and their tune “Just Another Day” was up next, a convincing updating of the blues tradition with Schwarz’s big voice bemoaning the workaday drudgery of life in contemporary Britain. Instrumental highlights came from left handed guitarist Koral and Whittaker on his two manual Crumar keyboard, an instrument that looks and sounds like an authentic Hammond. I’d seen Whittaker playing the same instrument just three weeks previously with John Etheridge’s Blue Spirits trio at Brecon Jazz Festival.

The duo of Koral and Schwarz is also a well established song writing partnership and this set incorporated many of their tunes including the impressive “The Blues Don’t Scare Me” with solos coming from Genaro and Whittaker.

Thus far the group had played hard and fast and the dramatic Koral/Schwarz composed slow blues “I Believe In You” represented a welcome change of style and pace with solos from Whittaker and Koral, the latter eventually heading for the stratosphere.

The blues boogie of the witty Schwarz/Koral original “Too Darn Rich To Be Happy” represented yet another blues style with solos from Genaro, Whittaker and Koral.

I first encountered the playing of Paul Robinson back in the late 70’s when he was a member of the late Jeff Clyne’s much loved fusion band Turning Point. Now a vastly experienced professional he spent nineteen years as the drummer of choice of Nina Simone and more recently has been part of the re-activated Back Door led by bassist Colin Hodgkinson. Robinson’s stint with Simone was honoured here by the inclusion of “Feeling Good”, a song indelibly associated with Simone but actually written by Anthony Newley.

“Liberated Woman”, a Koral/Schwarz original featured strong contributions from Genaro and Whittaker and was followed by a Koral/Hawker slow blues that I didn’t catch the title of . Next up was another slice of blues boogie featuring Genaro and Koral and then a superb interpretation of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby”.

“Buck”, written by Andy Stroud, represented another tune from the Nina Simone songbook. Here Genaro revealed yet another side to his talent with an entertaining and convincing mid song rap. Schwarz and Koral plucked him from an obscure Bournemouth pub band and he brings raw talent, restless energy and an extra visual focus point to this highly accomplished but thoroughly entertaining group. At this family friendly festival Genaro enjoyed bantering with Schwarz and Koral’s seven year old daughter Cassie who was dancing with her teddy bear at the side of the stage.
Uncle Si’s a bit of a character, that’s for sure.

Two Koral/Schwarz originals closed the show, “Say It Isn’t So” and the slow blues “We’ll Find A Way”, a potential lighter waver if ever there was one.

Blue Commotion were well received by the festival crowd as they overcame the sound of church bells ringing out in competition from a nearby House of God. Definitely a resounding victory for the Devil’s Music.


HOT CLUB GALLOIS

The first two events had been relatively sparsely attended but there was a definite increase in number for the next Club Room gig featuring the South Wales based gypsy jazz outfit Hot Club Gallois, a tribute both to the popularity of the group and of the gypsy jazz genre in general.

The four piece Hot Club have evolved from 5 Go Swing who visited BMJ’s old HQ, the Kings Arms, back in 2009. Violinist and leader Heulwen Thomas and guitarist Luke Archard remain from the previous incarnation and were joined today by guitarist/vocalist Richard Jones plus Michael Morgan and his unique home made double bass. 5 Go Swing also included accordionist Julian Martin but the current Hot Club line up is the “classic” gypsy jazz configuration made famous by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.

Hot Club Gallois play a similar range of material to their predecessors, classic gypsy jazz numbers,
thirties swing tunes and even a touch of Brazilian samba and bossa, the latter typified by the opening “Bossa Ricardo” written by guitarist Richard Jones. Jones and Archard share soloing and rhythmic duties - in this most democratic of bands there is no designated lead guitarist.

Jones is also an accomplished vocalist who also plays solo shows featuring blues material. He visited BMJ earlier in the year and got a bit of a rough ride from a crowd who had turned out to see the jazz/rock crossover band the Ruby Rose Quintet. Fortunately today’s audience were much more appreciative and attentive and Jones’ voice was heard to good effect, albeit in a very different style, on “After You’ve Gone” which also featured violinist Heulwen Thomas.

Archard got the opportunity to demonstrate his considerable guitar skills on Django Reinhardt’s “Belleville”, a tune based on the chords of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”. Thomas and Jones featured prominently too.

Hoagy Carmichael’s “Honeysuckle Rose” featured both guitarists, a solo violin episode from Thomas and a further effective Jones vocal. Gershwin’s “Summertime” was another vocal item with both guitarists soloing alongside Thomas as Morgan continued to anchor the group.

“Putting On The Ritz” was delivered at breakneck tempo with correspondingly nimble solos from Archard , Thomas and Jones.

“All Of Me” was sung by bassist Morgan with instrumental solos coming from Jones, Thomas and Archard. Former 5 Go Swing member Julian Martin was also acknowledged with the performance of Amber’s Musette, an original waltz written by Martin for his young daughter and based on Django Reinhardt’s early, pre Hot Club style. Archard took the instrumental honours on this version.

Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing” brought forth further passages of lively instrumental soloing as did the following unannounced item which was primarily a feature for leader Thomas. The violinist had been handling the announcing duties but by now the band were just keen to get on and play, the next piece relocating the music back to Brazil with Jones soloing above the south American rhythms.

A reprise of “After You’ve Gone” was followed by energetic takes on “Anniversary” and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” as an entertaining and engaging set came to a close. Hot Club Gallois have continued the virtues of 5 Go Swing namely a high level of instrumental ability, infectious enthusiasm and an all round sense of unpretentious fun. Jones’ vocals add a different ingredient that may have helped to broaden the quartet’s fan base. They were certainly very well received here, a late addition to the programme but one of the surprise successes of the day.


BRASS JAW

The Scottish brass ensemble Brass Jaw began as a saxophone quartet but later extended their range when alto saxophonist Martin Kershaw was replaced by trumpeter and larger than life on stage character Ryan Quigley. Conceived by baritone saxophonist Allon Beauvoisin the group released their début album “Burn” in 2006 and the personnel has since stabilised to include original members Beauvoisin and Paul Towndrow (alto sax) plus Quigley and tenor saxophonist Konrad Wisniewski. This line up recorded “Deal With It!” and “Branded” (both 2010) and as it happened today’s performance coincided with the release date of their latest album “Minted” which, like all the previous releases, appears on Towndrow’s Keywork record label.

Wisniewski was unable to make the Abergavenny show and his place on tenor was taken by Nigel Hitchcock, now a Scottish resident. Hugely talented on all the saxophones Hitchcock’s sight reading skills are almost legendary and he fitted seamlessly into the Brass Jaw tenor role despite usually being seen as something of an alto specialist.

All four members of Brass Jaw contribute tunes to the band but they also specialise in innovative arrangements of outside items such as the opening “Comin’ Home Baby” which they’d used to conclude their earlier slot.

Quigley’s “Imaginary Friend” from the new album weighs in at around six minutes on disc and was conceived as a kind of suite.  It’s a tribute to the enormous technical skills of the band that they realised Quigley’s quite often complicated ideas brilliantly. Interlocking repeated horn vamps spoke of the influence of Steve Reich and minimalism, this gradually mutating via solos from Towndrow and Hitchcock into full on squalling in pure free jazz territory. Impressive.

The sheer variety of sounds and moods the band can conjure from just four horn instruments is little short of astonishing. Also by Quigley “I Can hear You Smile”, the title inspired by telephone etiquette, proved to be a quietly sonorous ballad that was hugely affecting.

However humour is never far away in a Brass Jaw performance and a third Quigley composition “The Duck’s Chickens” from the album “Branded” featured furiously racing horn lines, a dazzling Hitchcock solo and the composer’s trumpet simulating farmyard noises. All the members of the group take a turn in announcing the tunes but it’s Quigley who is the joker in the pack.

Beauvoisin’s “Last October” saw him turning the baritone into a highly expressive instrument. However the first thing that strikes most first timers at brass jaw gigs is his sheer stamina as he handles most of the group’s bass lines on the big horn. It’s a triumph of physical resourcefulness but even so he does need a rest sometimes, hence the Quigley patter while Beauvoisin takes a breather.

Towndrow’s “Lester Gibson Blues” was actually positively cheerful with dazzling solos from Hitchcock and Quigley and a absorbing and impressive dialogue between Towndrow and Beauvoisin.

A rousing horn driven romp through the Beatles’ “Drive My Car” concluded a hugely enjoyable first set.

Brass Jaw were the only band to play two sets, the temporary interruption a physical necessity given the sheer physicality involved in their performances. Not that it was wholly restful, they were still selling copies of “Minted”, the home of the opening number of the second set, Towndrow’s “Heads Down, Thumbs Up”, the title a reflection on modern mobile technology and manners.

Also by Towndrow and appearing on both"Deal With It!” and “Minted” came “Charles Franklin Blues” with its baritone/tenor introduction plus Quigley’s growling, plunger muted, vocalised trumpet as the blues sailed down the Mississippi to New Orleans.

Written by Beauvoisin “Pulling A Quigley” referenced the trumpeter’s legendary good fortune in securing aircraft upgrades, finding the last parking space etc. etc. The tune featured its subject prominently, stomping his foot along to his impassioned, flaring trumpet solo.

The absent Wiesniewski was acknowledged by the inclusion of his piece “Siddhartha” from “Branded”, the piece based around the extraordinary playing of Beauvoisin. 

Another blues, this time unannounced proved to be a feature for super sub Hitchcock. This was followed by Quigley’s jokily titled “I Like You” from “Branded” which actually turned out to be a gentle ballad with Beauvoisin generating an atmosphere of considerable poignancy through his sensitive baritone playing.

The afternoon was completed another enjoyable arrangement of an outside piece, this time the ubiquitous “Sunny” with Quigley stealing the show with some blazing high register trumpet.

I’d seen Brass Jaw live once before at the 2010 London Jazz Festival when they played a free set in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall, not really the most sympathetic of settings. Today they sounded even better, their compositions and arrangements full of sophisticated musical ideas and with the four horns producing a remarkable sense of rhythm to which all the musicians contributed, it wasn’t all about Beauvoisin’s astonishing baritone vamps and bass lines. It requires extraordinarily high levels of musicianship to do what Brass Jaw do and what’s more they do it with attitude and a real sense of humour. It’s the audiences’ jaws that drop at this Scottish quartet’s performances. They really are remarkable and today’s show was again very well received. It’s not a format that translates quite so well on to disc but Brass Jaw are a terrific live act that every jazz fan should try to see at least once.


JOHN PAUL GARD TRIO

Organist John Paul Gard is a popular figure on the South Wales and Bristol music scenes, an experienced musician with more than a dozen recordings to his credit. For me he’s a fairly recent discovery, I first encountered Gard’s playing when he brought his Cookbook Project featuring drummer Gethin Jones and the amazing guitarist Alex Hutchins to a packed Queens Head in nearby Monmouth in December 2012.

Today in the Club Room Gard was playing music largely drawn from his latest album “Come On Rita”, a selection of Gard originals that pay tribute to the late, great Jimmy Smith plus some of Gard’s other musical heroes. The record features Jones on drums plus Kevin Glasgow on guitar. Better known as a virtuoso bassist Glasgow was to turn up the following day playing bass with drummer Asaf Sirkis’ trio.

For this performance in the Club Room venue Gard had recruited acclaimed drummer Rob Brian and guitarist Dan Messore whose own “Indigo Kid” album has been favourably reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann web pages. I got the impression that Gard hadn’t played with Messore that often before but the two quickly gelled even though Messore’s guitar was sometimes rather too low in the mix.

The trio opened by stringing three numbers together, “Come On Rita”, “Nice Touch Gene” and “Waltz For Evans”, all sourced from the latest album and dedicated to Jimmy Smith, Gene Ludwig and Pat Martino respectively. Sadly only guitarist Pat Martino is still with us. The music mixed funk and soul jazz influences with Brian laying down a solid back-beat that fuelled the solos of Gard and Messore.

Actually using a two manual Nord C2D keyboard Gard is a virtuoso organist who also plays incredible bass lines with his feet. I’d scribbled a note to mention this but Gard later pointed it out to the audience, his pedal board clearly visible to the viewers and with the organist wearing highly visible bright red sneakers. Introducing the band he stretched out a leg and declared “and on bass my left foot” pointing dramatically at the said appendage. It’s perhaps no surprise that he’s previously traded under the names Pedalboy and Pedalmania.

Things took a different turn with the bossa “Tea 4 Joey” which Gard dedicated to the man mountain that is American organist Joey DeFrancesco. I was lucky enough to see Joey perform with alto saxophonist David Sanborn at the 2011 London Jazz Festival, he also sings and plays the trumpet and is generally “a bit of a character”.

Still drawing on the new album “Fast As Toast” was as rapid as its title might suggest with some fleet fingered soloing from both Gard and Messore and a hugely impressive drum feature from Brian. Based in England;s West Country Brian is a prolific session drummer and drum educator who currently has a high profile gig in the drum chair for legendary punk survivors Siouxsie and The Banshees.

A gospel flavoured “Like Someone In Love” represented a first excursion into standards territory with Gard imposing his own personality on the tune. Then it was back to the album for “J and Jimmy”, the title a reference to an imaginary meeting between Gard and the man still regarded as the greatest of jazz Hammond organists, the great Jimmy Smith. I was also lucky enough to see Smith perform, this time at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 2001. Then in his late 70’s and very frail Smith had to be helped on to the stage but when he sat at the keyboard the years just rolled away even if the set did have to be kept fairly short, a combination of festival scheduling and Smith’s own health problems. Gard’s Smith tribute is a bit of a tear up in the soul jazz style and it produced some great playing from one of The UK’s top organ specialists.

To conclude this highly enjoyable set Gard dipped back into the standards repertoire for a spirited romp through Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia” with both Messore and Gard producing blistering solos. It was interesting to see Messore playing in a different style and context to Indigo Kid and overall his performance was very impressive. Brian, too offered solid support and shone on the occasional drum features. But mainly this was Gard’s show, his knowledge of his instrument and his virtuoso technique makes him a great favourite with audiences. Meanwhile “Come On Rita” is a classic organ recording with all the Hammond you can handle. Gard’s Cookbook group will be doing their special Christmas special in Monmouth again this year (Sunday, December 21st) and I fully intend to be there.


SARAH GILLESPIE TRIO

Headliner Sarah Gillespie was due to play at the Marquee Venue but with a distinct autumnal chill in the air Mike Skilton decided to stage the final gig of the day in the warmer environs of the Club Room. This proved to be an inspired move as the largest audience of the day, around sixty or so, ensured that there was a great atmosphere for this performance by one of BMJ’s favourite artistes.

Singer, guitarist and songwriter Sarah Gillespie had made hugely successful visits to BMJ’s old HQ the Kings Arms in both 2011 and 2012, both of these featuring a quartet comprised of Gilad Atzmon (reeds and accordion), Ben Bastin (double bass) and Enzo Zirilli at the drums. A quartet including Gillespie, Bastin and Zirilli plus guest pianist Kit Downes subsequently gave a brilliant performance at the 2012 Brecon Jazz Festival at an event presented by Black Mountain Jazz in conjunction with the festival.

Now with three top quality albums under her belt Gillespie has gradually emerged from Atzmon’s shadow although he still plays on her records and acts as her producer. However he’s been absent for most of her recent live performances. It’s a tribute to Gillespie’s writing talents that her songs stand up in whatever context she chooses to perform them , from solo to full quartet. Tonight’s show offered yet another permutation, a trio featuring Atzmon and the ever present Ben Bastin on bass. Material was drawn from right across Gillespie’s recorded output and with the group dynamic altered by the absence of Zirilli and the return of Atzmon this was a unique but typically brilliant show. Gillespie’s growing independence and her emergence as an instrumentalist has ensured that her performances have just got better and better over the course of the last couple of years and tonight’s show was well up to standard.

Gillespie’s songs are full of rich, sometimes exotic, imagery with a poetic touch that speaks of the influence of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. The arrangements combine jazz, folk and world music influences, it’s a heady brew but one that audiences seem to love. It’s something of a mystery that she hasn’t won more mainstream acceptance although that may yet come.

Tonight the duo of Gillespie and Atzmon began with “I Forget To Get Off Trains” from her second album “In The Current Climate”, voice and acoustic guitar combining with Atzmon’s clarinet on one of Gillespie’s most economical lyrics. Ex pat Israeli Atzmon’s clarinet playing embodied the Middle Eastern influences that pervade both his and Gillespie’s music.

Bastin joined the pair for the The Bees And The Seas” as Atzmon remained on clarinet and Gillespie’s lyrical talent was finally unleashed.

From Gillespie’s first album “Stalking Juliet” came “How The Mighty Fall” dedicated tonight to David Cameron. It’s become something of a tradition at Gillespie shows for this tune to be dedicated to a figure in the news, usually a politician. Gillespie’s lyrics are frequently a fascinating blend of the poetic, the personal and the political. “How The Mighty Fall” which packs a walloping chorus and features Atzmon on the accordion has long been a popular staple of Gillespie’s live shows and was once released as a single.

From “Current Climate” “Lucifer’s High Chair” featured typically evocative Gillespie lyrical imagery with Atzmon again on accordion and with backing vocals from the versatile Bastin.

From the latest album “Glory Days” came “Signal Failure”, a song of love and jealousy in the digital age with each verse representing an answer-phone message. There’s a dark humour in Gillespie’s songs too, an aspect of her writing that was well represented here.

That humour is carried over into the on stage bantering and bickering between Gillespie and Atzmon, great fun and all part of the act as the pair staged a mock fight as they battled for supremacy. A larger than life figure Atzmon always has plenty to say and even when it’s not technically his gig he just doesn’t seem able to stop himself. It all proved too much for one audience member who told him to “shut up and just play the music” before storming out. He was clearly in a minority of one and the audience roared with laughter as Atzmon followed him to the door and delivered a derisive volley of notes at the departing figure from the bell of his soprano. I suppose some people could get upset if encountering Gilad for the first time, I got the impression most people had seen him before and knew just what to expect. It’s all part of the show.

“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” Jimmy Cox’s “original credit crunch anthem” written in 1923, is tucked away on the B side of the “How The Mighty Fall” single. Nevertheless Gillespie’s innovative and spirited arrangement complete with virtuoso Atzmon clarinet solo has been a popular item at Gillespie’s live shows for a number of years now.

From “Climate” the song “How The West Was Won” revealed the more serious side of Gillespie’s oeuvre, the lyric a tale of “extraordinary rendition in Guantanamo Bay” with Atzmon’s vocalised soprano sax prominent in the arrangement.

The next four songs were sourced from the recent album “Glory Days” with Atzmon moving back to accordion for the sensuous “Sugar, Sugar” and the image rich title track, Gillespie’s poetic homage to her late mother.  A solo performance of “Oh Mary” showcased the improvement in Gillespie’s guitar skills and was also yet another demonstration that these days she’s singing even better than ever. Completing this selection was “The Soldier Song”, a witty but poignant reflection on the economic hardships that drive so many young men in to the service of the armed forces.

The word rich “In The Current Climate” also included a stunning Atzmon clarinet solo including his now customary quote from “Flight Of The Bumble Bee”. Following this Gillespie handed Atzmon her guitar and he accompanied her as she stood to sing “Babies And All That Shit”, a brilliant and humorous vocal performance that the audience absolutely loved. Finally came a storming “Stalking Juliet”  with Atzmon on soprano sax and with an exuberant double bass solo from the excellent Bastin.

A tremendous audience response ensured that an encore was inevitable, a rousing “Million Moons” , another tune with a great chorus and Atzmon on accordion. 

This was a great day to end an excellent day’s music. I’ve seen Gillespie live half a dozen times now in various instrumental configurations and she always delivers with each show subtly different to the last. Despite the lone dissenter tonight’s performance was well up to standard and topped off a day of universally good performances across a variety of jazz styles. The sheer buzz about the Gillespie show made it gig of the day but I got something out of all the performances.

Despite good publicity including coverage in the specialist jazz press and on the blogs run by Sebastian Scotney and myself – and even a plug on Jamie Cullum’s show on Radio 2- attendances could have been bigger. Mike Skilton seemed happy enough with numbers for this first festival and audience sizes were more substantial on the second day of the event. Artistically the festival was an unqualified success and the diversity of the acts was a huge plus as far as I was concerned. I just hope the event managed to break even and that it will be able to return again in 2014.


COMMENTS;

From Zoe Schwarz via Facebook;

“We’re reviewed here with our band BLUE COMMOTION (we’re 2nd band down)... LOVE how thorough, researched and well written it is… and LOVE the comments about our harpist Si Genaro, and the bit about when Rob Koral is “heading for the stratosphere”. Thanks Ian Mann”


From Sarah Gillespie via Facebook;

Great live review from Ian Mann of our gig last week at Wall to Wall Jazz Festival including an amusing write up on the on stage fight between Gilad Atzmon & myself.


From Matt on John Paul Gard at The Queens Head, Monmouth;

The Cookbook Project at the Queens Head last night was literally the best music I have ever heard, period.

   

 
     


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