The Jazz Mann | Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet - Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/10/2017. | Review | The Jazz Mann

Accessibility Menu

REVIEW

Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet - Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/10/2017. Rating: 4 out of 5 An excellent and eclectic evening of jazz that saw the quartet exploring a wide range of material that drew on pop, rock, soul and folk influences in a consistently interesting and entertaining manner

Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/10/2017.

Pianist Jonathan Gee and saxophonist Tim Whitehead are two of the UK’s most experienced and respected jazz musicians and the prospect of seeing the pair co-leading their own quartet attracted a large audience to the Hive for this Shrewsbury Jazz Network event on an unseasonably balmy October evening.

Gee is a talented composer and band-leader in his own right who has led his own trios, with various combinations of personnel, for a number of years, releasing a series of albums in the process. The latest, “Dragonfly” (2012) featured his “American” trio with Joseph Lepore on double bass and the great Nasheet Waits at the drums.  A versatile musician with a thorough knowledge of the jazz tradition he is also an in demand sideman who has played with many of Britain’s leading jazz musicians and who is ‘first call’ for visiting Americans such as the great saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders.
My review of “Dragonfly” can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/dragonfly/


Whitehead first came to my attention in the 1980s as part of the first edition of Loose Tubes and has subsequently led his own groups including the pre-Tubes Borderline quartet (featuring a young Django Bates) and the post-Tubes fusion style quintet the Tim Whitehead Band. He has led various editions of his acoustic quartet over the years with the piano chair being occupied at various times by Liam Noble and Jonathan Gee. Again a number of albums have resulted including 2011’s “Colour Beginnings”, Whitehead’s musical interpretations of the art of J.M.W. Turner.
My review of an earlier Whitehead album, “Lucky Boys”, by a quartet co-led with Italian pianist and composer Giovanni Mirabassi can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/lucky-boys/
“Too Young To Go To Steady”, a 2007 live album recorded at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club by Whitehead’s then regular quartet is reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/too-young-to-go-steady/

Joining Gee and Whitehead at The Hive were Andy Hamill on double bass and the American born Rod Youngs at the drums.

Hamill was a late replacement for the advertised Nick Pini but proved to be a highly capable ‘dep’ who impressed many members of the audience. A busy sideman adept at accompanying both vocalists and instrumentalists Hamill was well known to the rest of the band and has worked regularly with Whitehead’s close associate and fellow saxophonist Tony Woods.

London based Youngs is a highly accomplished, and often flamboyant, drummer who has worked in bands led by saxophonist Denys Baptiste and bassist Larry Bartley among many others.

Both Gee and Whitehead have a fondness for popular song and the quartet’s performance at Shrewsbury presented an eclectic mix of jazz standards, original compositions and, most notably, inventive and innovative jazz arrangements of pop songs, with a particular emphasis on the music of The Beatles.

Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as quite such a surprise. Whitehead’s 1999 “Personal Standards” album featured his jazz arrangements of a selection of pop and soul tunes while “Lucky Boys” included an adaptation of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Meanwhile Gee has his own Beatles connection. He is currently a member of a jazz quartet led by drummer Julian Fenton, once a member of the rock groups Kinky Machine and Mansun. Fenton, the step-son of the Beatles’ former tour manager Neil Aspinall regularly performs jazz versions of Beatles tunes with his quartet, with many of the arrangements written by Gee. Fenton’s quartet also includes bassist Ben Hazelton and guitarist Mike Outram.

This evening’s show started in unusual fashion with Youngs coming on stage first and informing the audience that he would be starting the first piece unaccompanied. Seating himself at the kit he sketched rhythmic patterns across his snare and toms with his bare hands, his colourful pattering occasionally punctuated by a bass drum accent or a click of the hi-hat. This was a distinctive, impressive and unusual opening and it was only with the addition of Gee at the piano and Hamill on double bass that things took a more conventional turn with expansive solos coming from Gee at the keyboard, Whitehead digging in on tenor sax, and finally Hamill on bass. The tune proved to be the late Cedar Walton’s composition “Bolivia”, a composition that has become something of a modern day standard.

Having played themselves in by stretching out on a jazz piece the quartet now turned for the first time to the Beatles repertoire with Gee’s dramatic re-harmonisation of “Blackbird” with Whitehead stating the melody on tenor and stretching out with a solo that would surely have surprised Mr. McCartney himself. Gee followed him on piano and the performance concluded with something of a feature for Youngs with the drummer accompanied by Whitehead’s impassioned tenor sax.

“Michelle” followed, introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano from Gee. Re-configured as a jazz ballad this featured solos from Whitehead’s warm toned, but deeply probing, tenor sax and Hamill’s melodic double bass as Youngs provided sensitively brushed accompaniment.

In keeping with the pop music theme “You Wish” was Whitehead’s re-working of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” (from the album “Songs In The Key Of Life”) written over the same chord sequence, a “contrafact”, if you will. Announcing the tune Whitehead spoke of the joy he derived from Wonder’s tune, and particularly the irresistible groove which Hamill and Youngs recreated here with the help of Gee, who adopted a funky Fender Rhodes sound on his keyboard. Whitehead played the breezy melody on tenor before soloing at length, occasionally breaking off to urge the rhythm section on, placing the emphasis firmly on the groove. Gee followed him at the keyboard, keeping faith with the electric piano sound, and Youngs rounded things off with a series of good humoured drum breaks. He looked as if he was having a whale of a time.

The first set concluded as it began with a Cedar Walton tune, this time the appropriately gospel tinged “Holy Land”, again introduced by a passage of solo piano from Gee, his keyboard incantations answered by the rest of the band in classic ‘call and response’ manner. Whitehead took the first solo on tenor, followed by Gee at the piano but Hamill threatened to steal the show with a dramatic solo that included thumb slapped bass and flamenco style strumming as he demonstrated the full range of his considerable abilities.  A second solo piano cadenza from Gee then presaged a band finale that concluded with Whitehead’s Coltrane-esque tenor and the dramatic shimmer of Youngs’ mallets on cymbals.

The consensus around The Hive was that this had been an excellent first set and the audience members were genuinely intrigued to see what would follow in the second half. This proved to be broadly similar, but this time with a greater emphasis on original composition.

The quartet commenced with Whitehead’s “Louise Marie Anne”, a heartfelt tribute to a recently deceased family friend who had been a descendant of the artist John Everett Millais. Whitehead’s yearning tenor expressed his sense of loss with Gee and Hamill also adding thoughtful, melodic solos as Youngs provided sympathetic brushed accompaniment.

Keith Jarrett’s “Questar” was sourced from the pianist’s 1978 ECM album “My Song”, the second to feature his “European Quartet”. It’s a delightful piece but Whitehead wisely elected not to replicate the sound of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, instead choosing to find his own voice on tenor as he shared the solos with Gee, cast here in the Jarrett role and providing a little ‘vocalising’ of his own. Gee is also an accomplished singer and often ‘accompanies’ his own solos.

“Franklin” was Whitehead’s adaptation of a traditional folk tune written in memory of the explorer Sir John Franklin, of North West Passage fame. Whitehead’s piece was written for the 2016 Tall Ships Festival in London and originally included words sung by his vocalist daughter Hattie Whitehead. Ironically Franklin’s missing ships were discovered in the Arctic after around 170 years at around the time the piece was premièred. Performed here in the style of a jazz ballad Whitehead’s softly smouldering tenor was followed by solos from Gee on the piano and Hamill on supremely melodic bass, much of his playing focussed up around the bridge of the instrument. Whitehead then returned on tenor, still fluent but now more impassioned, and the piece resolved itself with a stunning solo sax cadenza.

Gee’s piece “Cicada”, a quirky piece with rhythms based on the unique life cycles of the insects in question is one of his oldest tunes having first appeared on “Good Cop, Bad Cop”, a 2001 album by a quartet co-led by Gee and trumpeter Damon Brown. It was then reprised for the 2012 trio album “Dragonfly” and remains a favourite piece with its odd meter grooves here eliciting convincing solos from Gee, Whitehead and Hamill plus a spirited dialogue between Whitehead and Youngs leading to the latter’s drum feature.

An excellent evening of music making ended with the quartet returning to the Beatles repertoire as they collectively stretched the fabric of Lennon & McCartney’s “She Loves You” via a Gee arrangement headed up on the manuscript as “She Loves U” and including final excellent solos from the co-leaders on piano and tenor respectively.

This was an excellent and eclectic evening of jazz that saw the quartet exploring a wide range of material that drew on pop, rock, soul and folk influences in a consistently interesting and entertaining manner and which included some exceptional playing from all four participants. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Beatles repertoire explored in such an adventurous and interesting fashion, certainly not in a jazz context.

It was a reminder of just how talented Gee and Whitehead are while Hamill and Youngs also acquitted themselves superbly. The band members seemed genuinely impressed by the size of the turn out and the warmth of the crowd reaction, something that must have made the long drive back to London more bearable. My thanks to Jonathan gee for speaking with me afterwards and to all four performers for an evening of excellent music.

 

Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/10/2017.

Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/10/2017.
Photography: Photograph of Jonathan Gee sourced from the Shrewsbury Jazz Network website http://www.shrewsburyjazznetwork.co.uk

An excellent and eclectic evening of jazz that saw the quartet exploring a wide range of material that drew on pop, rock, soul and folk influences in a consistently interesting and entertaining manner

Jonathan Gee / Tim Whitehead Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/10/2017.

Pianist Jonathan Gee and saxophonist Tim Whitehead are two of the UK’s most experienced and respected jazz musicians and the prospect of seeing the pair co-leading their own quartet attracted a large audience to the Hive for this Shrewsbury Jazz Network event on an unseasonably balmy October evening.

Gee is a talented composer and band-leader in his own right who has led his own trios, with various combinations of personnel, for a number of years, releasing a series of albums in the process. The latest, “Dragonfly” (2012) featured his “American” trio with Joseph Lepore on double bass and the great Nasheet Waits at the drums.  A versatile musician with a thorough knowledge of the jazz tradition he is also an in demand sideman who has played with many of Britain’s leading jazz musicians and who is ‘first call’ for visiting Americans such as the great saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders.
My review of “Dragonfly” can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/dragonfly/


Whitehead first came to my attention in the 1980s as part of the first edition of Loose Tubes and has subsequently led his own groups including the pre-Tubes Borderline quartet (featuring a young Django Bates) and the post-Tubes fusion style quintet the Tim Whitehead Band. He has led various editions of his acoustic quartet over the years with the piano chair being occupied at various times by Liam Noble and Jonathan Gee. Again a number of albums have resulted including 2011’s “Colour Beginnings”, Whitehead’s musical interpretations of the art of J.M.W. Turner.
My review of an earlier Whitehead album, “Lucky Boys”, by a quartet co-led with Italian pianist and composer Giovanni Mirabassi can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/lucky-boys/
“Too Young To Go To Steady”, a 2007 live album recorded at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club by Whitehead’s then regular quartet is reviewed here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/too-young-to-go-steady/

Joining Gee and Whitehead at The Hive were Andy Hamill on double bass and the American born Rod Youngs at the drums.

Hamill was a late replacement for the advertised Nick Pini but proved to be a highly capable ‘dep’ who impressed many members of the audience. A busy sideman adept at accompanying both vocalists and instrumentalists Hamill was well known to the rest of the band and has worked regularly with Whitehead’s close associate and fellow saxophonist Tony Woods.

London based Youngs is a highly accomplished, and often flamboyant, drummer who has worked in bands led by saxophonist Denys Baptiste and bassist Larry Bartley among many others.

Both Gee and Whitehead have a fondness for popular song and the quartet’s performance at Shrewsbury presented an eclectic mix of jazz standards, original compositions and, most notably, inventive and innovative jazz arrangements of pop songs, with a particular emphasis on the music of The Beatles.

Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as quite such a surprise. Whitehead’s 1999 “Personal Standards” album featured his jazz arrangements of a selection of pop and soul tunes while “Lucky Boys” included an adaptation of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Meanwhile Gee has his own Beatles connection. He is currently a member of a jazz quartet led by drummer Julian Fenton, once a member of the rock groups Kinky Machine and Mansun. Fenton, the step-son of the Beatles’ former tour manager Neil Aspinall regularly performs jazz versions of Beatles tunes with his quartet, with many of the arrangements written by Gee. Fenton’s quartet also includes bassist Ben Hazelton and guitarist Mike Outram.

This evening’s show started in unusual fashion with Youngs coming on stage first and informing the audience that he would be starting the first piece unaccompanied. Seating himself at the kit he sketched rhythmic patterns across his snare and toms with his bare hands, his colourful pattering occasionally punctuated by a bass drum accent or a click of the hi-hat. This was a distinctive, impressive and unusual opening and it was only with the addition of Gee at the piano and Hamill on double bass that things took a more conventional turn with expansive solos coming from Gee at the keyboard, Whitehead digging in on tenor sax, and finally Hamill on bass. The tune proved to be the late Cedar Walton’s composition “Bolivia”, a composition that has become something of a modern day standard.

Having played themselves in by stretching out on a jazz piece the quartet now turned for the first time to the Beatles repertoire with Gee’s dramatic re-harmonisation of “Blackbird” with Whitehead stating the melody on tenor and stretching out with a solo that would surely have surprised Mr. McCartney himself. Gee followed him on piano and the performance concluded with something of a feature for Youngs with the drummer accompanied by Whitehead’s impassioned tenor sax.

“Michelle” followed, introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano from Gee. Re-configured as a jazz ballad this featured solos from Whitehead’s warm toned, but deeply probing, tenor sax and Hamill’s melodic double bass as Youngs provided sensitively brushed accompaniment.

In keeping with the pop music theme “You Wish” was Whitehead’s re-working of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” (from the album “Songs In The Key Of Life”) written over the same chord sequence, a “contrafact”, if you will. Announcing the tune Whitehead spoke of the joy he derived from Wonder’s tune, and particularly the irresistible groove which Hamill and Youngs recreated here with the help of Gee, who adopted a funky Fender Rhodes sound on his keyboard. Whitehead played the breezy melody on tenor before soloing at length, occasionally breaking off to urge the rhythm section on, placing the emphasis firmly on the groove. Gee followed him at the keyboard, keeping faith with the electric piano sound, and Youngs rounded things off with a series of good humoured drum breaks. He looked as if he was having a whale of a time.

The first set concluded as it began with a Cedar Walton tune, this time the appropriately gospel tinged “Holy Land”, again introduced by a passage of solo piano from Gee, his keyboard incantations answered by the rest of the band in classic ‘call and response’ manner. Whitehead took the first solo on tenor, followed by Gee at the piano but Hamill threatened to steal the show with a dramatic solo that included thumb slapped bass and flamenco style strumming as he demonstrated the full range of his considerable abilities.  A second solo piano cadenza from Gee then presaged a band finale that concluded with Whitehead’s Coltrane-esque tenor and the dramatic shimmer of Youngs’ mallets on cymbals.

The consensus around The Hive was that this had been an excellent first set and the audience members were genuinely intrigued to see what would follow in the second half. This proved to be broadly similar, but this time with a greater emphasis on original composition.

The quartet commenced with Whitehead’s “Louise Marie Anne”, a heartfelt tribute to a recently deceased family friend who had been a descendant of the artist John Everett Millais. Whitehead’s yearning tenor expressed his sense of loss with Gee and Hamill also adding thoughtful, melodic solos as Youngs provided sympathetic brushed accompaniment.

Keith Jarrett’s “Questar” was sourced from the pianist’s 1978 ECM album “My Song”, the second to feature his “European Quartet”. It’s a delightful piece but Whitehead wisely elected not to replicate the sound of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, instead choosing to find his own voice on tenor as he shared the solos with Gee, cast here in the Jarrett role and providing a little ‘vocalising’ of his own. Gee is also an accomplished singer and often ‘accompanies’ his own solos.

“Franklin” was Whitehead’s adaptation of a traditional folk tune written in memory of the explorer Sir John Franklin, of North West Passage fame. Whitehead’s piece was written for the 2016 Tall Ships Festival in London and originally included words sung by his vocalist daughter Hattie Whitehead. Ironically Franklin’s missing ships were discovered in the Arctic after around 170 years at around the time the piece was premièred. Performed here in the style of a jazz ballad Whitehead’s softly smouldering tenor was followed by solos from Gee on the piano and Hamill on supremely melodic bass, much of his playing focussed up around the bridge of the instrument. Whitehead then returned on tenor, still fluent but now more impassioned, and the piece resolved itself with a stunning solo sax cadenza.

Gee’s piece “Cicada”, a quirky piece with rhythms based on the unique life cycles of the insects in question is one of his oldest tunes having first appeared on “Good Cop, Bad Cop”, a 2001 album by a quartet co-led by Gee and trumpeter Damon Brown. It was then reprised for the 2012 trio album “Dragonfly” and remains a favourite piece with its odd meter grooves here eliciting convincing solos from Gee, Whitehead and Hamill plus a spirited dialogue between Whitehead and Youngs leading to the latter’s drum feature.

An excellent evening of music making ended with the quartet returning to the Beatles repertoire as they collectively stretched the fabric of Lennon & McCartney’s “She Loves You” via a Gee arrangement headed up on the manuscript as “She Loves U” and including final excellent solos from the co-leaders on piano and tenor respectively.

This was an excellent and eclectic evening of jazz that saw the quartet exploring a wide range of material that drew on pop, rock, soul and folk influences in a consistently interesting and entertaining manner and which included some exceptional playing from all four participants. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Beatles repertoire explored in such an adventurous and interesting fashion, certainly not in a jazz context.

It was a reminder of just how talented Gee and Whitehead are while Hamill and Youngs also acquitted themselves superbly. The band members seemed genuinely impressed by the size of the turn out and the warmth of the crowd reaction, something that must have made the long drive back to London more bearable. My thanks to Jonathan gee for speaking with me afterwards and to all four performers for an evening of excellent music.

 


blog comments powered by Disqus

JAZZ MANN FEATURES

EFG London Jazz Festival, Saturday November 11th 2017.

EFG London Jazz Festival, Saturday November 11th 2017.

Ian Mann enjoys performances by the Kadri Voorand / Mikhel Magland Duo and the Andy Sheppard Quartet at Kings Place.


‘Jazz Alley + Boogie Party’,Sunday @ Wall2Wall Jazz Festival,Market Hall,Abergavenny, 03/09/2017

‘Jazz Alley + Boogie Party’,Sunday @ Wall2Wall Jazz Festival,Market Hall,Abergavenny, 03/09/2017

Ian Mann on the final, family friendly day of the Festival with performances by Samba Galez, Budapest Ragtime Band, Chris Moreton, Kitty & The Purramours and the Red Stripe Band.


JAZZ MANN RECOMMENDS