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Nigel Price Quartet - Nigel Price Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/09/2018. Rating: 4 out of 5 Price’s love of the music is infectious and his skill and commitment helps to give the music vibrancy and contemporary relevance.

NIGEL PRICE QUARTET, THE HIVE MUSIC & MEDIA CENTRE, SHREWSBURY, 08/09/2018.

Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s September presentation saw them hosting guitarist Nigel Price, who was leading a punchy, hard swinging quartet featuring the talents of organist Liam Dunachie, drummer Steve Brown and tenor saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos.

Price has a particular fondness for leading organ combos in either the trio or quartet format and previous incumbents of the organist’s seat have been Jim Watson and Pete Whittaker with Ross Stanley currently occupying the chair on a regular basis. In Stanley’s absence local lad Liam Dunachie, born in Ludlow but now based in London, stepped into the breach and acquitted himself brilliantly. Dunachie has previously stepped into Stanley’s shoes with trombonist Dennis Rollins’ acclaimed Velocity Trio. He also leads his own organ trio, with whom he recently appeared at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford.

Price regularly augments his regular organ trio with a saxophonist and the Greek born Xenopoulos has played with Price’s groups many times. I recall reviewing a show by Price, Stanley, Xenopoulos and drummer Matt Home at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny back in October 2014. Alex Garnett is another saxophonist who has regularly played played and recorded with Price over the years. Tonight Xenopoulos was fully integrated into the group and wasn’t obviously a ‘guest’ - hence the quartet billing, although Price does still sometimes perform trio shows.

Indeed Xenopoulos and Price, under the group name XPQ, recently released the standards album “Sidekicks” which pays homage to the great guitar/saxophone combinations of jazz from Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins through Kenny Burrell and Stanley Turrentine to the UK’s own Dave Cliff and Geoff Simkins and Morrissey / Mullen. The album was recorded with bassist Dario Di Lecce and tonight’s drummer Steve Brown.

The guitarist is a good candidate for the ‘hardest working man in jazz’ award. His tours tend to be extensive, covering all areas of the UK, and he was also the organiser of the 2018 Swanage Jazz Festival, taking up the reins after nobody else was prepared to take it on.

Former soldier Price was a relatively late comer to the ranks of professional jazz musicians but has wasted little time since. He was once a member of Hammond guru James Taylor’s long running JTQ before running his own organ based groups. Price also spent a lengthy tenure with the acid jazz outfit The Filthy Six. He has recorded with Van Morrison and with jazz vocalist Georgia Mancio and is a regular member of the Ronnie Scott’s house band.

Price lists a broad range of guitarists as influences including Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jimmy Raney, Pat Martino and John McLaughlin but is most obviously in thrall to the first named. His music is rooted in bebop and Price has the technical facility to do it justice and to put an agreeably contemporary slant on it. He has a particular affinity for the art of the contrafact, re-inventing jazz and bebop standards in highly inventive fashion and granting the resultant new compositions sly and witty titles. Examples of these are to be found on Price’s “Heads & Tales” series of recordings.

Price has recently had his Arts Council funding cut which has placed several dates on his current under threat. However tonight represented better news with a large turn out for this stellar quartet. Even while I was checking in five ‘walk ups’ came in just behind me and The Hive was filled to capacity making for a great, listening atmosphere with the audience highly supportive and appreciative of the band.

Price chose to ease his audience in gently and gradually with the jazz standard “Indian Summer”, written by Victor Herbert. A passage of unaccompanied guitar introduced the piece with Price subsequently joined by brushed drums, subtle organ bass lines and subdued tenor sax. Only later did the momentum began to build as Brown switched to sticks and Price began to demonstrate his formidable soloing abilities with a feature that combined lithe, bebop inspired phrasing with sophisticated chord patterns. Xenopoulos, too, began to stir the pot with a fluent, quote laden solo that hinted at just how forceful a player he can be. Dunachie then took his first extended solo of the night on his two manual Nord C2D electric keyboard, the instrument providing a good approximation of the classic Hammond organ sound. Guitar and saxophone then coalesced on a reprise of Herbert’s theme.

“Stealing Time” represented the first contrafact of the evening, a Price composition based upon the chords of Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low”, with the title taken from the “time a thief”  line in the Ogden Nash lyric. Xenopoulos took the first solo on tenor, moving fluently up through the gears accompanied by Price’s expert comping and Brown’s propulsive, Latin inflected drumming. He was followed by Price and Dunachie with Brown also enjoying a series of vivid and powerful drum breaks. The consistently swinging Brown is a musician who always plays with a smile on his face and is arguably the best mainstream jazz drummer in Britain. Always in demand he was something of a fixture at the Titley Jazz Festival, which ran in nearby Herefordshire for five successful years from 2010 to 2014 inclusive, playing with such well loved musicians as saxophonists Alan Barnes and Art Themen.

Next came an instrumental arrangement of the song “Sweet Georgie Fame”, written by vocalist and pianist Blossom Dearie in conjunction with Sandra Harris. The piece began quietly with Price’s languorous guitar and Xenopoulos’ gently smoky tenor. But like so many of Price’s arrangements the tune started out in one place and ended up in quite another as the momentum once again began to build via solos from Dunachie, Xenopoulos and Price, with the saxophonist’s skilfully constructed solo really ramping up the power as it progressed.

The Henry Mancini song “Dreamsville” may be one of his lesser known compositions, but it’s a popular one among jazz guitarists. It’s been in Price’s repertoire for quite some time and is also a favourite of the North Wales based Trefor Owen. Once more it was a piece that built from quiet beginnings with Brown deploying brushes to accompany Xenopoulos’ opening theme statement before taking up the sticks for the increasingly animated solos from Price and Xenopoulos.

A superb first set concluded with a lively rendition of the Price contrafact “Blue Genes”, based on the chords of Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine”. The boppish head featured some dazzling unison passages for guitar, organ and tenor with Brown’s sizzling cymbals helping to provide a scalding swing throughout the piece. Price led off the solos with some dazzling single note runs combined with his usual chordal sophistication. Xenopoulos and Dunachie both delivered high powered solos and Brown wrapped things up with a dynamic drum feature. It was a great way to conclude a brilliant first half.

Set two kicked off with a Price variant on “Body And Soul” but this was very different to Coleman Hawkins’ classic tenor sax ballad reading of the original tune. Price’s contrafact was far more upbeat and swinging with solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Dunachie plus an explosive series of drum breaks from Brown as he traded phrases with the other three musicians.

Horace Silver’s “Silver Serenade” was a typically melodic piece from the master pianist and composer with Brown initially playing with brushes. The change to sticks came as Xenopoulos took off with a solo liberally peppered with quotes. He was subsequently followed by Dunachie and Price.

The inclusion of a Wes Montgomery tune was almost inevitable with Price choosing his own arrangement of “Four On Six” and changing the time signature from four to six. This self imposed complexity didn’t stop the piece from swinging, while providing the launch pad for solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Dunachie. It concluded with a rousing feature from Brown, who had been a dynamic presence throughout, stoking the fires during Xenopoulos’ solo together with Price’s rapid fire comping.

“Detour Ahead”, written by the American guitarist Herb Ellis, represented the only true ballad of the night and was introduced by an extended passage of unaccompanied guitar from the leader followed by a theme statement from Xenopoulos. Orthodox jazz solos from Price, Dunachie and Xenopoulos with the saxophonist adding an element of epic grandeur in the closing stages of the piece. Interestingly the tune was recently selected as the title track of young London based guitarist Nick Costley-White’s début album.

“Straight No Bounce” concluded the second set, a Price amalgamation of Thelonious Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” and Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce”. I thought about calling it “Yorker” joked cricket fan Price. Alternating bars from each tune the quartet’s performance was both boppish and bluesy with the impressive Xenopoulos delivering a barnstorming tenor solo. After the gig several audience members expressed the opinion that the Greek is arguably the best mainstream tenor player in the UK at the moment. Price followed with a typically fluent solo, contorting his fingers into almost impossible chord shapes. Local hero Dunachie then unleashed his inner Jimmy Smith with a wailing, gospel infused organ solo before Brown rounded things off with a scintillating series of colourful drum breaks.

The thoroughly deserved encore was called by Xenopoulos, a version of the standard “Darn That Dream” that included solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Dunachie.

With the music rooted in the bebop era there was nothing radical about tonight’s performance but the sheer skill, verve and energy of the playing made this a night to remember. Price’s love of the music is infectious and his skill and commitment helps to give the music vibrancy and contemporary relevance. He was of course helped by an absolutely terrific band with the near capacity audience also adding to the atmosphere. Price presented the show with good humour and a sometimes caustic wit, some of his asides were highly amusing. It all made for a great all round package that was greatly appreciated by the jazz lovers of Shropshire and beyond.

My thanks to Vasilis Xenopoulos for speaking with me afterwards. He really is a great addition to the UK jazz scene.

Nigel Price Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/09/2018.

Nigel Price Quartet

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4 out of 5

Nigel Price Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/09/2018.
Photography: Photograph by Pam Mann.

Price’s love of the music is infectious and his skill and commitment helps to give the music vibrancy and contemporary relevance.

NIGEL PRICE QUARTET, THE HIVE MUSIC & MEDIA CENTRE, SHREWSBURY, 08/09/2018.

Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s September presentation saw them hosting guitarist Nigel Price, who was leading a punchy, hard swinging quartet featuring the talents of organist Liam Dunachie, drummer Steve Brown and tenor saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos.

Price has a particular fondness for leading organ combos in either the trio or quartet format and previous incumbents of the organist’s seat have been Jim Watson and Pete Whittaker with Ross Stanley currently occupying the chair on a regular basis. In Stanley’s absence local lad Liam Dunachie, born in Ludlow but now based in London, stepped into the breach and acquitted himself brilliantly. Dunachie has previously stepped into Stanley’s shoes with trombonist Dennis Rollins’ acclaimed Velocity Trio. He also leads his own organ trio, with whom he recently appeared at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford.

Price regularly augments his regular organ trio with a saxophonist and the Greek born Xenopoulos has played with Price’s groups many times. I recall reviewing a show by Price, Stanley, Xenopoulos and drummer Matt Home at Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny back in October 2014. Alex Garnett is another saxophonist who has regularly played played and recorded with Price over the years. Tonight Xenopoulos was fully integrated into the group and wasn’t obviously a ‘guest’ - hence the quartet billing, although Price does still sometimes perform trio shows.

Indeed Xenopoulos and Price, under the group name XPQ, recently released the standards album “Sidekicks” which pays homage to the great guitar/saxophone combinations of jazz from Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins through Kenny Burrell and Stanley Turrentine to the UK’s own Dave Cliff and Geoff Simkins and Morrissey / Mullen. The album was recorded with bassist Dario Di Lecce and tonight’s drummer Steve Brown.

The guitarist is a good candidate for the ‘hardest working man in jazz’ award. His tours tend to be extensive, covering all areas of the UK, and he was also the organiser of the 2018 Swanage Jazz Festival, taking up the reins after nobody else was prepared to take it on.

Former soldier Price was a relatively late comer to the ranks of professional jazz musicians but has wasted little time since. He was once a member of Hammond guru James Taylor’s long running JTQ before running his own organ based groups. Price also spent a lengthy tenure with the acid jazz outfit The Filthy Six. He has recorded with Van Morrison and with jazz vocalist Georgia Mancio and is a regular member of the Ronnie Scott’s house band.

Price lists a broad range of guitarists as influences including Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jimmy Raney, Pat Martino and John McLaughlin but is most obviously in thrall to the first named. His music is rooted in bebop and Price has the technical facility to do it justice and to put an agreeably contemporary slant on it. He has a particular affinity for the art of the contrafact, re-inventing jazz and bebop standards in highly inventive fashion and granting the resultant new compositions sly and witty titles. Examples of these are to be found on Price’s “Heads & Tales” series of recordings.

Price has recently had his Arts Council funding cut which has placed several dates on his current under threat. However tonight represented better news with a large turn out for this stellar quartet. Even while I was checking in five ‘walk ups’ came in just behind me and The Hive was filled to capacity making for a great, listening atmosphere with the audience highly supportive and appreciative of the band.

Price chose to ease his audience in gently and gradually with the jazz standard “Indian Summer”, written by Victor Herbert. A passage of unaccompanied guitar introduced the piece with Price subsequently joined by brushed drums, subtle organ bass lines and subdued tenor sax. Only later did the momentum began to build as Brown switched to sticks and Price began to demonstrate his formidable soloing abilities with a feature that combined lithe, bebop inspired phrasing with sophisticated chord patterns. Xenopoulos, too, began to stir the pot with a fluent, quote laden solo that hinted at just how forceful a player he can be. Dunachie then took his first extended solo of the night on his two manual Nord C2D electric keyboard, the instrument providing a good approximation of the classic Hammond organ sound. Guitar and saxophone then coalesced on a reprise of Herbert’s theme.

“Stealing Time” represented the first contrafact of the evening, a Price composition based upon the chords of Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low”, with the title taken from the “time a thief”  line in the Ogden Nash lyric. Xenopoulos took the first solo on tenor, moving fluently up through the gears accompanied by Price’s expert comping and Brown’s propulsive, Latin inflected drumming. He was followed by Price and Dunachie with Brown also enjoying a series of vivid and powerful drum breaks. The consistently swinging Brown is a musician who always plays with a smile on his face and is arguably the best mainstream jazz drummer in Britain. Always in demand he was something of a fixture at the Titley Jazz Festival, which ran in nearby Herefordshire for five successful years from 2010 to 2014 inclusive, playing with such well loved musicians as saxophonists Alan Barnes and Art Themen.

Next came an instrumental arrangement of the song “Sweet Georgie Fame”, written by vocalist and pianist Blossom Dearie in conjunction with Sandra Harris. The piece began quietly with Price’s languorous guitar and Xenopoulos’ gently smoky tenor. But like so many of Price’s arrangements the tune started out in one place and ended up in quite another as the momentum once again began to build via solos from Dunachie, Xenopoulos and Price, with the saxophonist’s skilfully constructed solo really ramping up the power as it progressed.

The Henry Mancini song “Dreamsville” may be one of his lesser known compositions, but it’s a popular one among jazz guitarists. It’s been in Price’s repertoire for quite some time and is also a favourite of the North Wales based Trefor Owen. Once more it was a piece that built from quiet beginnings with Brown deploying brushes to accompany Xenopoulos’ opening theme statement before taking up the sticks for the increasingly animated solos from Price and Xenopoulos.

A superb first set concluded with a lively rendition of the Price contrafact “Blue Genes”, based on the chords of Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine”. The boppish head featured some dazzling unison passages for guitar, organ and tenor with Brown’s sizzling cymbals helping to provide a scalding swing throughout the piece. Price led off the solos with some dazzling single note runs combined with his usual chordal sophistication. Xenopoulos and Dunachie both delivered high powered solos and Brown wrapped things up with a dynamic drum feature. It was a great way to conclude a brilliant first half.

Set two kicked off with a Price variant on “Body And Soul” but this was very different to Coleman Hawkins’ classic tenor sax ballad reading of the original tune. Price’s contrafact was far more upbeat and swinging with solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Dunachie plus an explosive series of drum breaks from Brown as he traded phrases with the other three musicians.

Horace Silver’s “Silver Serenade” was a typically melodic piece from the master pianist and composer with Brown initially playing with brushes. The change to sticks came as Xenopoulos took off with a solo liberally peppered with quotes. He was subsequently followed by Dunachie and Price.

The inclusion of a Wes Montgomery tune was almost inevitable with Price choosing his own arrangement of “Four On Six” and changing the time signature from four to six. This self imposed complexity didn’t stop the piece from swinging, while providing the launch pad for solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Dunachie. It concluded with a rousing feature from Brown, who had been a dynamic presence throughout, stoking the fires during Xenopoulos’ solo together with Price’s rapid fire comping.

“Detour Ahead”, written by the American guitarist Herb Ellis, represented the only true ballad of the night and was introduced by an extended passage of unaccompanied guitar from the leader followed by a theme statement from Xenopoulos. Orthodox jazz solos from Price, Dunachie and Xenopoulos with the saxophonist adding an element of epic grandeur in the closing stages of the piece. Interestingly the tune was recently selected as the title track of young London based guitarist Nick Costley-White’s début album.

“Straight No Bounce” concluded the second set, a Price amalgamation of Thelonious Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” and Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce”. I thought about calling it “Yorker” joked cricket fan Price. Alternating bars from each tune the quartet’s performance was both boppish and bluesy with the impressive Xenopoulos delivering a barnstorming tenor solo. After the gig several audience members expressed the opinion that the Greek is arguably the best mainstream tenor player in the UK at the moment. Price followed with a typically fluent solo, contorting his fingers into almost impossible chord shapes. Local hero Dunachie then unleashed his inner Jimmy Smith with a wailing, gospel infused organ solo before Brown rounded things off with a scintillating series of colourful drum breaks.

The thoroughly deserved encore was called by Xenopoulos, a version of the standard “Darn That Dream” that included solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Dunachie.

With the music rooted in the bebop era there was nothing radical about tonight’s performance but the sheer skill, verve and energy of the playing made this a night to remember. Price’s love of the music is infectious and his skill and commitment helps to give the music vibrancy and contemporary relevance. He was of course helped by an absolutely terrific band with the near capacity audience also adding to the atmosphere. Price presented the show with good humour and a sometimes caustic wit, some of his asides were highly amusing. It all made for a great all round package that was greatly appreciated by the jazz lovers of Shropshire and beyond.

My thanks to Vasilis Xenopoulos for speaking with me afterwards. He really is a great addition to the UK jazz scene.


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