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Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends - Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/10/2017. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 "An excellent evening of music making". Ian Mann enjoys this one-off collaboration between guitarists Jean Guyomarc'h and Will Barnes and double bassist/vocalist Ruth Bowen.

Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/10/2017.

The French guitarist Jean Guyomarc’h has been a regular visitor to Wales over the course of the last two years or so, becoming something of an audience favourite in the process.

In 2015 the Brittany born musician toured Wales with the group Major Swing featuring rhythm guitarist and vocalist Phillippe Cann and violinist and vocalist Yurie Hu. The tour culminated with a well received performance at Brecon Jazz Festival where the trio were joined by guest performers Remi Harris (guitar) and Ashley John Long (double bass), two highly accomplished local musicians with strong followings in the Welsh Borders and beyond. My review of that performance can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/major-swing-with-guests-remi-harris-and-ashley-john-long-brecon-jazz-festiv/

In October 2016 Guyomarc’h returned to the UK for another short tour, something that now seems to be becoming something of an annual event. Dates on this current visit have included performances in Cardiff and Brecon with tonight’s line up credited to Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends.
Guyomarc’h was joined by fellow guitarist Will Barnes and double bassist, and occasional vocalist Ruth Bowen, the latter stepping in at short notice for the unavailable Erica Lyons.

Barnes is also something of a Brecon Jazz Club favourite having previously visited as a member of a trio led by violinist Sarah Barnwell. Like Major Swing Extended he was also part of the 2015 “Celebrating the Jazz Guitar” programme at the 2015 Brecon Jazz Festival when he appeared as part of a one off aggregation billed as the Deirdre Cartwright Band & Friends. Review here ;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/deirdre-cartwright-band-friends-brecon-jazz-festival-09-08-2015/

Barnes has also led his own band, Inspector Gadjo, which skilfully combines gypsy jazz with bebop. He has also been part of the highly successful, but recently discontinued, group Gypsy Fire which presented a kind of gypsy jazz / classical crossover. The versatile Barnes has recently been touring with the singer/songwriter Beth Prior. Others with whom he has performed include fellow guitarists Cartwright, Gary Potter, John Etheridge and Frank Vignola and saxophonist/clarinettist Alan Barnes.

Locally based Ruth Bowen is a popular figure on the jazz scene in the Welsh Marches leading her own group Gardenia Swing which features her on both double bass and vocals. She has performed a number of Brecon Jazz Club dates, the most recent of which featured Gardenia Swing with guest saxophonist Heinz Hunt. She was part of a quartet led by North Walian guitarist Trefor Owen at the 2015 Brecon Jazz Festival. Bowen also performs regularly with Leominster based musicians Trevor Davies (guitar) and Mark Latimer (piano). Others with whom she has collaborated include guitarist Andrew Jones, saxophonist Deborah Glenister and drummer Richard Bowen.

I think I’m correct in stating that tonight was the first time this particular line up had actually performed together and that Lyons had played bass on the earlier tour dates. Guyomarc’h and Barnes had played together some years previously and it’s highly likely that Barnes may also have worked with Bowen at some point.

Thus the programme, formulated by Guyomarc’h, featured a familiar selection of gypsy jazz staples, the majority of them written by, or associated with, Django Reinhardt. There were also a number of jazz and bebop standards, these more suited to Barnes style of playing.

The two guitarists began the first set in duo format, Guyomarc’h playing a subtly amplified acoustic guitar and Barnes a solid bodied electric model, the classic “arch top”. In reality their tones actually sounded very similar as they alternated between lead and rhythmic roles, passing the initiative back and forth seamlessly, virtually at the ‘drop of a hat’.

Both guitarists are exceptional soloists and every tune saw them exchanging solos and often entering into a series of dazzling exchanges as they traded phrases back and forth in a series of sparkling musical conversations.

The opening duo item, “Coquette” was an excellent example of this with Guyomarc’h taking the first solo before exchanging roles with Barnes, the pair finally coming together with a tasty exchange of guitar licks. This was followed by a vibrantly lively “Stompin’ At The Savoy” with Barnes this time soloing first.

Bowen joined the group for one of the less familiar items in the programme, an original appropriately titled “Made In France” and written by the highly acclaimed guitarist Bireli Lagrene.
Written in the waltz format the tune featured two solos from Guyomarc’h either side of a feature for Barnes.

An up-tempo version of “There Will Never Be Another You” saw Bowen take her first solo of the night as she followed similar outings from Guyomarc’h and Barnes.

Introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar by Barnes Reinhardt’s ballad “Norwegian Dance” found the trio cooling the fires with fluently elegant solos from Guyomarc’h, Barnes and then Guyomarc’h again.

A rapid “Nuit De St. Germain Du Pres” saw the trio picking up the pace once more. Guyomarc’h and Barnes are both virtuoso soloists and they were in particularly dazzling form here with lithe solos from both protagonists followed by an equally incandescent series of exchanges between the pair as they batted ideas back and forth. A word here too for Bowen whose rhythmic impetus and shoring up of the group sound helped to propel the twin guitarists to new levels of inventiveness.

“Blues Minuet” was introduced by a passage of solo guitar from Guyomarc’h. The strong blues influence behind the piece was apparent in the solos from Guyomarc’h and Barnes, the latter at one point soloing with only Bowen for company as the leader temporarily sat out.

Bowen’s singing is an essential element of her performances with Gardenia Swing and she was featured in this role on “Honeysuckle Rose”, the only vocal number of the night and one which saw her showcase both her singing and bass playing as the two guitarists again traded solos.

The ballad like “Troublant Bolero” calmed things down once more with Guyomarc’h and Barnes both featuring as soloists before a delicately constructed and highly effective diminuendo conclusion.

The first set then ended with “Cherokee” which began slowly before exploding into life as the trio accelerated the tune with nimble solos coming from both Barnes and Guyomarc’h.

I’m indebted to Will Barnes for providing me with a set list during the break. The first half was played exactly as written down but Guyomarc’h made a few changes to the running order of the second set so if there are any inaccuracies in my account of the second half you know why.

Once again the set commenced in duo mode with Guyomarc’h and Barnes exchanging solos on Wes Montgomery’s “Four On Six”, with Barnes using the body of his guitar as a form of auxiliary percussion.

A passage of unaccompanied guitar from Guyomarc’h then introduced the ballad “Body And Soul” with the two musicians again exchanging solos.

Bowen rejoined the group to romp through a segue of the bebop classics “Oleo” and “Anthropology” which saw some slippery bop style soloing from Barnes as he traded features with Guyomarc’h. Arguably the highlight of the piece was the dazzling, quote laden series of exchanges between the guitarists towards the end, they even managed a fleeting reprise of “Cherokee”.

Barnes described the fusion of “Belleville” and “Daphne” as “Django with a modern, boppish twist” as he and Guyomarc’h again shared solos and then proceeded to swap lead and rhythm roles with great élan on the final series of exchanges as Bowen’s bass continued to push the music forward. The two guitarists made it all look effortlessly easy and natural, but the skill levels were very high indeed and the rapport between the players almost uncanny.

Looking back now there’s some confusion about the order in which “Bossa Dorado” and “Impression” appeared but the soloing was undeniably brilliant as the two guitarists warmed to their task. One outing from Barnes was greeted by a barrage of rapturous applause while one of Bowen’s rare solo excursions was also warmly appreciated.

One thing that invoked no arguments was a stunning, slowed down arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” which subtly disguised the melody as Barnes and Guyomarc’h traded subtle but effective solos and a further series of exchanges. Many audience members cited this innovative interpretation of this most familiar of tunes as the highlight of the evening.

The performance concluded with a spirited, high energy romp through the gypsy jazz classic “Dark Eyes” with final sparkling solos from both guitarists.

Encouraged by an enthusiastic audience reaction the trio were urged by promoter Lynne Gornall to play a “short slow” encore designed to send the audience home in a relaxed but happy mood. Instead we got a short, fast encore with final solos from Guyomarc’h and Barnes and a humorous, quote laden final series of exchanges.

Despite the predictability of the programme this was an excellent evening of music making that, admittedly, did throw up a number of genuine surprises including the Bireli Lagrene piece and that remarkable version of “Summertime”.

But it was the sheer quality of the playing, plus the obvious rapport and good humour between Guyomarc’h and Barnes that helped to make it memorable. Both are brilliant soloists with a high degree of technical ability but they work so well together, pushing each other on to new heights of invention. Bowen’s role was largely supportive but she, too, performed well, giving the two guitarists the opportunity to shine while also seizing her own moments in the spotlight.

At times I was conscious of the limitations of the “gypsy jazz” format and missed something of the variety that Remi Harris brings to his shows these days. Having said that Remi’s trio is a regular working band with a now well established game plan. Tonight’s one off collaboration did all it could in the format and the circumstances and delivered some outstanding musicianship. Barnes later told me how much he had enjoyed playing with Guyomarc’h again, his fellow guitarist having pushed Barnes out of his comfort zone to exhilarating effect. The way in which these two sparked off each other was genuinely exciting to watch.

Guyomarc’h is likely to return again for more ‘Breize a Galles’ (Brittany and Wales) collaborations in the future.

 

Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/10/2017.

Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/10/2017.
Photography: Photograph of Jean Guyomarc'h at the 2015 Brecon Jazz Festival by Bob Meyrick.

"An excellent evening of music making". Ian Mann enjoys this one-off collaboration between guitarists Jean Guyomarc'h and Will Barnes and double bassist/vocalist Ruth Bowen.

Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse Arts Centre, Brecon, 10/10/2017.

The French guitarist Jean Guyomarc’h has been a regular visitor to Wales over the course of the last two years or so, becoming something of an audience favourite in the process.

In 2015 the Brittany born musician toured Wales with the group Major Swing featuring rhythm guitarist and vocalist Phillippe Cann and violinist and vocalist Yurie Hu. The tour culminated with a well received performance at Brecon Jazz Festival where the trio were joined by guest performers Remi Harris (guitar) and Ashley John Long (double bass), two highly accomplished local musicians with strong followings in the Welsh Borders and beyond. My review of that performance can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/major-swing-with-guests-remi-harris-and-ashley-john-long-brecon-jazz-festiv/

In October 2016 Guyomarc’h returned to the UK for another short tour, something that now seems to be becoming something of an annual event. Dates on this current visit have included performances in Cardiff and Brecon with tonight’s line up credited to Jean Guyomarc’h & Friends.
Guyomarc’h was joined by fellow guitarist Will Barnes and double bassist, and occasional vocalist Ruth Bowen, the latter stepping in at short notice for the unavailable Erica Lyons.

Barnes is also something of a Brecon Jazz Club favourite having previously visited as a member of a trio led by violinist Sarah Barnwell. Like Major Swing Extended he was also part of the 2015 “Celebrating the Jazz Guitar” programme at the 2015 Brecon Jazz Festival when he appeared as part of a one off aggregation billed as the Deirdre Cartwright Band & Friends. Review here ;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/deirdre-cartwright-band-friends-brecon-jazz-festival-09-08-2015/

Barnes has also led his own band, Inspector Gadjo, which skilfully combines gypsy jazz with bebop. He has also been part of the highly successful, but recently discontinued, group Gypsy Fire which presented a kind of gypsy jazz / classical crossover. The versatile Barnes has recently been touring with the singer/songwriter Beth Prior. Others with whom he has performed include fellow guitarists Cartwright, Gary Potter, John Etheridge and Frank Vignola and saxophonist/clarinettist Alan Barnes.

Locally based Ruth Bowen is a popular figure on the jazz scene in the Welsh Marches leading her own group Gardenia Swing which features her on both double bass and vocals. She has performed a number of Brecon Jazz Club dates, the most recent of which featured Gardenia Swing with guest saxophonist Heinz Hunt. She was part of a quartet led by North Walian guitarist Trefor Owen at the 2015 Brecon Jazz Festival. Bowen also performs regularly with Leominster based musicians Trevor Davies (guitar) and Mark Latimer (piano). Others with whom she has collaborated include guitarist Andrew Jones, saxophonist Deborah Glenister and drummer Richard Bowen.

I think I’m correct in stating that tonight was the first time this particular line up had actually performed together and that Lyons had played bass on the earlier tour dates. Guyomarc’h and Barnes had played together some years previously and it’s highly likely that Barnes may also have worked with Bowen at some point.

Thus the programme, formulated by Guyomarc’h, featured a familiar selection of gypsy jazz staples, the majority of them written by, or associated with, Django Reinhardt. There were also a number of jazz and bebop standards, these more suited to Barnes style of playing.

The two guitarists began the first set in duo format, Guyomarc’h playing a subtly amplified acoustic guitar and Barnes a solid bodied electric model, the classic “arch top”. In reality their tones actually sounded very similar as they alternated between lead and rhythmic roles, passing the initiative back and forth seamlessly, virtually at the ‘drop of a hat’.

Both guitarists are exceptional soloists and every tune saw them exchanging solos and often entering into a series of dazzling exchanges as they traded phrases back and forth in a series of sparkling musical conversations.

The opening duo item, “Coquette” was an excellent example of this with Guyomarc’h taking the first solo before exchanging roles with Barnes, the pair finally coming together with a tasty exchange of guitar licks. This was followed by a vibrantly lively “Stompin’ At The Savoy” with Barnes this time soloing first.

Bowen joined the group for one of the less familiar items in the programme, an original appropriately titled “Made In France” and written by the highly acclaimed guitarist Bireli Lagrene.
Written in the waltz format the tune featured two solos from Guyomarc’h either side of a feature for Barnes.

An up-tempo version of “There Will Never Be Another You” saw Bowen take her first solo of the night as she followed similar outings from Guyomarc’h and Barnes.

Introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar by Barnes Reinhardt’s ballad “Norwegian Dance” found the trio cooling the fires with fluently elegant solos from Guyomarc’h, Barnes and then Guyomarc’h again.

A rapid “Nuit De St. Germain Du Pres” saw the trio picking up the pace once more. Guyomarc’h and Barnes are both virtuoso soloists and they were in particularly dazzling form here with lithe solos from both protagonists followed by an equally incandescent series of exchanges between the pair as they batted ideas back and forth. A word here too for Bowen whose rhythmic impetus and shoring up of the group sound helped to propel the twin guitarists to new levels of inventiveness.

“Blues Minuet” was introduced by a passage of solo guitar from Guyomarc’h. The strong blues influence behind the piece was apparent in the solos from Guyomarc’h and Barnes, the latter at one point soloing with only Bowen for company as the leader temporarily sat out.

Bowen’s singing is an essential element of her performances with Gardenia Swing and she was featured in this role on “Honeysuckle Rose”, the only vocal number of the night and one which saw her showcase both her singing and bass playing as the two guitarists again traded solos.

The ballad like “Troublant Bolero” calmed things down once more with Guyomarc’h and Barnes both featuring as soloists before a delicately constructed and highly effective diminuendo conclusion.

The first set then ended with “Cherokee” which began slowly before exploding into life as the trio accelerated the tune with nimble solos coming from both Barnes and Guyomarc’h.

I’m indebted to Will Barnes for providing me with a set list during the break. The first half was played exactly as written down but Guyomarc’h made a few changes to the running order of the second set so if there are any inaccuracies in my account of the second half you know why.

Once again the set commenced in duo mode with Guyomarc’h and Barnes exchanging solos on Wes Montgomery’s “Four On Six”, with Barnes using the body of his guitar as a form of auxiliary percussion.

A passage of unaccompanied guitar from Guyomarc’h then introduced the ballad “Body And Soul” with the two musicians again exchanging solos.

Bowen rejoined the group to romp through a segue of the bebop classics “Oleo” and “Anthropology” which saw some slippery bop style soloing from Barnes as he traded features with Guyomarc’h. Arguably the highlight of the piece was the dazzling, quote laden series of exchanges between the guitarists towards the end, they even managed a fleeting reprise of “Cherokee”.

Barnes described the fusion of “Belleville” and “Daphne” as “Django with a modern, boppish twist” as he and Guyomarc’h again shared solos and then proceeded to swap lead and rhythm roles with great élan on the final series of exchanges as Bowen’s bass continued to push the music forward. The two guitarists made it all look effortlessly easy and natural, but the skill levels were very high indeed and the rapport between the players almost uncanny.

Looking back now there’s some confusion about the order in which “Bossa Dorado” and “Impression” appeared but the soloing was undeniably brilliant as the two guitarists warmed to their task. One outing from Barnes was greeted by a barrage of rapturous applause while one of Bowen’s rare solo excursions was also warmly appreciated.

One thing that invoked no arguments was a stunning, slowed down arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” which subtly disguised the melody as Barnes and Guyomarc’h traded subtle but effective solos and a further series of exchanges. Many audience members cited this innovative interpretation of this most familiar of tunes as the highlight of the evening.

The performance concluded with a spirited, high energy romp through the gypsy jazz classic “Dark Eyes” with final sparkling solos from both guitarists.

Encouraged by an enthusiastic audience reaction the trio were urged by promoter Lynne Gornall to play a “short slow” encore designed to send the audience home in a relaxed but happy mood. Instead we got a short, fast encore with final solos from Guyomarc’h and Barnes and a humorous, quote laden final series of exchanges.

Despite the predictability of the programme this was an excellent evening of music making that, admittedly, did throw up a number of genuine surprises including the Bireli Lagrene piece and that remarkable version of “Summertime”.

But it was the sheer quality of the playing, plus the obvious rapport and good humour between Guyomarc’h and Barnes that helped to make it memorable. Both are brilliant soloists with a high degree of technical ability but they work so well together, pushing each other on to new heights of invention. Bowen’s role was largely supportive but she, too, performed well, giving the two guitarists the opportunity to shine while also seizing her own moments in the spotlight.

At times I was conscious of the limitations of the “gypsy jazz” format and missed something of the variety that Remi Harris brings to his shows these days. Having said that Remi’s trio is a regular working band with a now well established game plan. Tonight’s one off collaboration did all it could in the format and the circumstances and delivered some outstanding musicianship. Barnes later told me how much he had enjoyed playing with Guyomarc’h again, his fellow guitarist having pushed Barnes out of his comfort zone to exhilarating effect. The way in which these two sparked off each other was genuinely exciting to watch.

Guyomarc’h is likely to return again for more ‘Breize a Galles’ (Brittany and Wales) collaborations in the future.

 


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