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Gareth Roberts Quartet - Gareth Roberts Quartet play Duke Ellington at Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 11/07/2017. Rating: 4 out of 5 A superb evening of music from four local heroes who genuinely deserve to be more widely known. These musicians brought a real freshness and vitality to Ellington's music.

Gareth Roberts Quartet, “In a Mellow Tone – the music of Duke Ellington”, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 11/07/2017.

Trombonist Gareth Roberts is one of the most popular and familiar musicians on the South Wales jazz scene. Originally from Aberystwyth the Cardiff based Roberts leads his own groups as well as being an increasingly significant playing and composing presence in the ranks of long running cult favourites Heavy Quartet. The versatile Roberts is also one of the principal soloists in the Capital City Jazz Orchestra and has also played with the Latin-esque Buena Risca Social Club. He is an in demand sideman and session musician and also somehow finds time to pursue a parallel career as a school teacher and musical educator.

During the interval of tonight’s show he also told me that he plays his trombone at Glamorgan County Cricket Club’s T20 matches, “I respond to the crowd and if someone turns up in fancy dress, like Darth Vader or Batman I play the appropriate theme tune” he explained. Roberts used to play cricket and his knowledge of the rhythms of the game help to ensure that he doesn’t perform at inappropriate moments. It’s his fourth season with the club and his payment is a free season ticket!
It’s a lovely story and one that sums up Roberts’ good humoured and unpretentious approach to music making.

I’ve been admirer of Roberts’ playing and writing since 2006 when I first saw him perform at the Lichfield Real Ale Jazz & Blues Festival. I’ve seen him play many times since and he’s a musician who never disappoints.

In 2006 I also reviewed the quirkily titled “Attack Of The Killer Penguins”, the début album by Roberts’ quintet. Comprised entirely of original compositions plus a selection of imaginative arrangements of traditional Welsh folk tunes the album brought Roberts a degree of national attention, and rightly so, with festival appearances at Lichfield and Cheltenham following. The 2010 follow up “Go Stop Go” was nearly as fine, although in terms of the national jazz scene a little of the momentum generated by “Penguins” had dissipated by then. Both albums are highly recommended and both are reviewed elsewhere on this site.
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gareth-roberts-quintet-the-attack-of-the-killer-penguins/
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gareth-roberts-quintet-go-stop-go/

Tonight’s visit represented a welcome return to Brecon Jazz Club for Roberts who had visited the club in June 2015 at its previous home at Theatr Brycheiniog as a guest of the Dave Jones Trio. Pianist and composer Jones was part of tonight’s quartet with the line up being completed by virtuoso bassist Ashley John Long and the experienced drummer Greg Evans.

Roberts has played as a sideman on Jones’ albums. The pianist is a prolific composer who has released a number of recordings in recent years  including the trio album “Impetus” (2009) and the more expansive offerings “Journeys (2010) and “Resonance” (2012). Both of these featured a core quartet including saxophonist Lee Goodall, plus additional brass and strings. All three albums highlighted just what an accomplished and ambitious composer Jones can be and all attracted an impressive amount of critical acclaim from the London based jazz media. The concert recording “Live at AMG” featured music from the three studio albums.   Jones has since released “Postscript” (2016),  an intimate duo set recorded with Long  and “KeyNotes” (2017), the most recent quartet album., recorded with just the core group but with the multi-talented Long doubling on vibes.

The 2015 Brecon Jazz Club performance placed the emphasis on the original writing of Jones, and to a lesser extent, Roberts. For this visit Roberts had been asked to prepare a selection of favourite standards but when he came to compile the list he found that he’d chosen half a dozen Duke Ellington tunes. This encouraged him to go for a whole set of Ellington compositions - “they’re just great tunes, and really fun to play”, as he explained.

The performance by Roberts and his quartet was the perfect illustration of this. All of the tunes were familiar, nailed on Ellington classics from various stages of the Duke’s career. But Roberts and his colleagues brought something of themselves to them through the consistently high quality of the soloing allied to a relaxed, good humoured approach. This was a group of musicians who were visibly having fun with their chosen material and their unpretentious enthusiasm communicated to a supportive and appreciative audience.

The bluesy growl of Roberts’ trombone, allied to Long’s double bass, introduced the quartet’s signature tune for this project, “In A Mellow Tone”.  As the piece gathered momentum with Long and Evans providing steadily swinging propulsion we enjoyed expansive and inventive solos from Roberts on trombone, Jones at the piano and Long on double bass. Also an acclaimed classical double bass player Long solos with an astonishing degree of dexterity and invention. His features are consistently full of interest, no matter in which jazz context he finds himself.  Indeed he has recently released “Psi”, an album of solo double bass improvisations on the FMR record label, a recording I intend to be taking a look at very shortly.

Continuing with the Ellington programme we enjoyed “Take The A Train”, introduced by Jones’ playing of the familiar opening motif on the piano. This was the ‘express’ version with Roberts delivering an astonishingly agile solo on trombone as Evans’ rapidly brushed drums approximated the rhythms of the titular locomotive. Jones then took over on piano before Evans enjoyed a series of brushed drum breaks as he exchanged phrases with Roberts.

A delightful arrangement of “In A Sentimental Mood” captured the warmth and mellowness of Roberts’ ballad playing as he and Jones introduced the piece in duo format. Roberts subsequently soloed at greater length, sensitively accompanied by Evans’ brushed drums. Long then added a delightfully melodic, but highly dexterous bass solo.

“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” raised the energy levels once more and was hugely popular with the audience as Roberts and Jones delivered fluent and imaginative solos. I’m not usually a big fan of the trombone but I just love Roberts’ playing.

“Creole Love Call”, the earliest Ellington composition to feature, was a tour de force for Roberts on vocalised, plunger muted trombone, particularly on the virtuoso unaccompanied intro and subsequent duet with Long.  Jones and Long also featured as soloists on another piece that was rapturously received by the crowd.

Ellington’s signature tune, “It Don’t Mean A Thing”, with features for all four members of the quartet, brought the first set to an energetic close. Once again the crowd loved it.

“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”, sometimes credited to Duke’s son Mercer Ellington, opened the second half. Jones, Long and Evans kicked things off in trio mode before Roberts took to the stage to deliver the first solo, followed by Jones, as fluent and inventive as ever, and Long. The bassist’s solo was highly melodic with Long concentrating his attentions on the area around the bridge of the instrument.

Roberts explained that Ellington’s “Cottontail” was one of many tunes based on the chord changes of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”..  The thrillingly inventive solos from Roberts, Jones and Long saw them competing with each other to squeeze in the maximum number of quotes from other “Rhythm tunes”  It was symptomatic of the quartet’s playful approach, but it sounded great and the audience lapped it up.

The Latin-esque “Perdido” was credited to Juan Tizol, Ellington’s valve trombonist for many years, This was introduced by a dialogue between Roberts and Evans followed by subsequent solos from Roberts and Jones.

A good natured “Just Squeeze Me” introduced a warmer trombone sound and included solos from Roberts, Jones and Long .

The evening concluded with a rousing version of “Caravan”, another famous Ellington number associated with Tizol. Roberts adopted a guttural sound on trombone as he introduced the piece in tandem with Evans. Jones’ piano solo included some of his most percussive playing of the night and Evans rounded things off with a fully fledged drum solo.

The deserved encore was a brief, but spirited romp through “ C Jam Blues” with features for Roberts on trombone and Jones at the piano.

This was a superb evening of music from four local heroes who genuinely deserve to be more widely known. If Roberts, Jones and Long were based in London they’d surely be nationally recognised jazz figures. The quality of the soloing from these three lifted tonight’s event above the level of just another ‘provincial’ tribute gig and although Ellington’s music is in many respects “timeless” these musicians brought a real freshness and vitality to it.

It was also good to see such a healthy attendance at tonight’s event, which bodes well for the continuing success of Brecon Jazz Club, this after a similarly heartening turn out at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny the night before for the Sotavento Big Band. It’s been an encouraging week for Welsh jazz as a whole.

Both Brecon Jazz Club and Black Mountain Jazz have their annual festivals coming up. Let’s hope that these will be similarly well supported. 

I make these observations on a night when Coldplay are performing at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and bringing the city to a standstill. Gareth & co had a job escaping the traffic to come and play in Brecon – but they battled through and delivered the goods, epitomising the spirit of jazz in the age of corporate rock.


 

 

 

Gareth Roberts Quartet play Duke Ellington at Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 11/07/2017.

Gareth Roberts Quartet

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Gareth Roberts Quartet play Duke Ellington at Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 11/07/2017.
Photography: Photograph of Gareth Roberts and Greg Evans sourced from the Brecon Jazz Club website http://www.breconjazzclub.org

A superb evening of music from four local heroes who genuinely deserve to be more widely known. These musicians brought a real freshness and vitality to Ellington's music.

Gareth Roberts Quartet, “In a Mellow Tone – the music of Duke Ellington”, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 11/07/2017.

Trombonist Gareth Roberts is one of the most popular and familiar musicians on the South Wales jazz scene. Originally from Aberystwyth the Cardiff based Roberts leads his own groups as well as being an increasingly significant playing and composing presence in the ranks of long running cult favourites Heavy Quartet. The versatile Roberts is also one of the principal soloists in the Capital City Jazz Orchestra and has also played with the Latin-esque Buena Risca Social Club. He is an in demand sideman and session musician and also somehow finds time to pursue a parallel career as a school teacher and musical educator.

During the interval of tonight’s show he also told me that he plays his trombone at Glamorgan County Cricket Club’s T20 matches, “I respond to the crowd and if someone turns up in fancy dress, like Darth Vader or Batman I play the appropriate theme tune” he explained. Roberts used to play cricket and his knowledge of the rhythms of the game help to ensure that he doesn’t perform at inappropriate moments. It’s his fourth season with the club and his payment is a free season ticket!
It’s a lovely story and one that sums up Roberts’ good humoured and unpretentious approach to music making.

I’ve been admirer of Roberts’ playing and writing since 2006 when I first saw him perform at the Lichfield Real Ale Jazz & Blues Festival. I’ve seen him play many times since and he’s a musician who never disappoints.

In 2006 I also reviewed the quirkily titled “Attack Of The Killer Penguins”, the début album by Roberts’ quintet. Comprised entirely of original compositions plus a selection of imaginative arrangements of traditional Welsh folk tunes the album brought Roberts a degree of national attention, and rightly so, with festival appearances at Lichfield and Cheltenham following. The 2010 follow up “Go Stop Go” was nearly as fine, although in terms of the national jazz scene a little of the momentum generated by “Penguins” had dissipated by then. Both albums are highly recommended and both are reviewed elsewhere on this site.
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gareth-roberts-quintet-the-attack-of-the-killer-penguins/
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/gareth-roberts-quintet-go-stop-go/

Tonight’s visit represented a welcome return to Brecon Jazz Club for Roberts who had visited the club in June 2015 at its previous home at Theatr Brycheiniog as a guest of the Dave Jones Trio. Pianist and composer Jones was part of tonight’s quartet with the line up being completed by virtuoso bassist Ashley John Long and the experienced drummer Greg Evans.

Roberts has played as a sideman on Jones’ albums. The pianist is a prolific composer who has released a number of recordings in recent years  including the trio album “Impetus” (2009) and the more expansive offerings “Journeys (2010) and “Resonance” (2012). Both of these featured a core quartet including saxophonist Lee Goodall, plus additional brass and strings. All three albums highlighted just what an accomplished and ambitious composer Jones can be and all attracted an impressive amount of critical acclaim from the London based jazz media. The concert recording “Live at AMG” featured music from the three studio albums.   Jones has since released “Postscript” (2016),  an intimate duo set recorded with Long  and “KeyNotes” (2017), the most recent quartet album., recorded with just the core group but with the multi-talented Long doubling on vibes.

The 2015 Brecon Jazz Club performance placed the emphasis on the original writing of Jones, and to a lesser extent, Roberts. For this visit Roberts had been asked to prepare a selection of favourite standards but when he came to compile the list he found that he’d chosen half a dozen Duke Ellington tunes. This encouraged him to go for a whole set of Ellington compositions - “they’re just great tunes, and really fun to play”, as he explained.

The performance by Roberts and his quartet was the perfect illustration of this. All of the tunes were familiar, nailed on Ellington classics from various stages of the Duke’s career. But Roberts and his colleagues brought something of themselves to them through the consistently high quality of the soloing allied to a relaxed, good humoured approach. This was a group of musicians who were visibly having fun with their chosen material and their unpretentious enthusiasm communicated to a supportive and appreciative audience.

The bluesy growl of Roberts’ trombone, allied to Long’s double bass, introduced the quartet’s signature tune for this project, “In A Mellow Tone”.  As the piece gathered momentum with Long and Evans providing steadily swinging propulsion we enjoyed expansive and inventive solos from Roberts on trombone, Jones at the piano and Long on double bass. Also an acclaimed classical double bass player Long solos with an astonishing degree of dexterity and invention. His features are consistently full of interest, no matter in which jazz context he finds himself.  Indeed he has recently released “Psi”, an album of solo double bass improvisations on the FMR record label, a recording I intend to be taking a look at very shortly.

Continuing with the Ellington programme we enjoyed “Take The A Train”, introduced by Jones’ playing of the familiar opening motif on the piano. This was the ‘express’ version with Roberts delivering an astonishingly agile solo on trombone as Evans’ rapidly brushed drums approximated the rhythms of the titular locomotive. Jones then took over on piano before Evans enjoyed a series of brushed drum breaks as he exchanged phrases with Roberts.

A delightful arrangement of “In A Sentimental Mood” captured the warmth and mellowness of Roberts’ ballad playing as he and Jones introduced the piece in duo format. Roberts subsequently soloed at greater length, sensitively accompanied by Evans’ brushed drums. Long then added a delightfully melodic, but highly dexterous bass solo.

“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” raised the energy levels once more and was hugely popular with the audience as Roberts and Jones delivered fluent and imaginative solos. I’m not usually a big fan of the trombone but I just love Roberts’ playing.

“Creole Love Call”, the earliest Ellington composition to feature, was a tour de force for Roberts on vocalised, plunger muted trombone, particularly on the virtuoso unaccompanied intro and subsequent duet with Long.  Jones and Long also featured as soloists on another piece that was rapturously received by the crowd.

Ellington’s signature tune, “It Don’t Mean A Thing”, with features for all four members of the quartet, brought the first set to an energetic close. Once again the crowd loved it.

“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”, sometimes credited to Duke’s son Mercer Ellington, opened the second half. Jones, Long and Evans kicked things off in trio mode before Roberts took to the stage to deliver the first solo, followed by Jones, as fluent and inventive as ever, and Long. The bassist’s solo was highly melodic with Long concentrating his attentions on the area around the bridge of the instrument.

Roberts explained that Ellington’s “Cottontail” was one of many tunes based on the chord changes of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”..  The thrillingly inventive solos from Roberts, Jones and Long saw them competing with each other to squeeze in the maximum number of quotes from other “Rhythm tunes”  It was symptomatic of the quartet’s playful approach, but it sounded great and the audience lapped it up.

The Latin-esque “Perdido” was credited to Juan Tizol, Ellington’s valve trombonist for many years, This was introduced by a dialogue between Roberts and Evans followed by subsequent solos from Roberts and Jones.

A good natured “Just Squeeze Me” introduced a warmer trombone sound and included solos from Roberts, Jones and Long .

The evening concluded with a rousing version of “Caravan”, another famous Ellington number associated with Tizol. Roberts adopted a guttural sound on trombone as he introduced the piece in tandem with Evans. Jones’ piano solo included some of his most percussive playing of the night and Evans rounded things off with a fully fledged drum solo.

The deserved encore was a brief, but spirited romp through “ C Jam Blues” with features for Roberts on trombone and Jones at the piano.

This was a superb evening of music from four local heroes who genuinely deserve to be more widely known. If Roberts, Jones and Long were based in London they’d surely be nationally recognised jazz figures. The quality of the soloing from these three lifted tonight’s event above the level of just another ‘provincial’ tribute gig and although Ellington’s music is in many respects “timeless” these musicians brought a real freshness and vitality to it.

It was also good to see such a healthy attendance at tonight’s event, which bodes well for the continuing success of Brecon Jazz Club, this after a similarly heartening turn out at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny the night before for the Sotavento Big Band. It’s been an encouraging week for Welsh jazz as a whole.

Both Brecon Jazz Club and Black Mountain Jazz have their annual festivals coming up. Let’s hope that these will be similarly well supported. 

I make these observations on a night when Coldplay are performing at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and bringing the city to a standstill. Gareth & co had a job escaping the traffic to come and play in Brecon – but they battled through and delivered the goods, epitomising the spirit of jazz in the age of corporate rock.


 

 

 


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