Vicari's rich and colourful new compositions were brought to life by their composer
Pianist and composer Andrea Vicari made a big impression on the UK jazz scene back in 1994 with her ten-piece band Suburban Gorillas, making a memorable appearance at Brecon Jazz Festival and recording the band for 33 records.
An excellent quintet record “Lunar Spell” followed in 1995 featuring saxophonist Mornington Lockett and a young Phil Robson on guitar.
Vicari is also an educator and is professor of jazz piano at London’s Trinity College Of Music. Motherhood and her teaching commitments meant that she did not record as a leader again until 2004 when the piano trio album “Tryptych” appeared featuring her regular bassist Dorian Lockett alongside the brilliant drummer Sebastian Rochford.
This was another strong offering and as we heard tonight Vicari is now anxious to record again having written a batch of excellent new tunes and assembled a talented new band with an all star front line to record them. The band is due to go into the studios in July and an album should be available later in the year.
Tonight at Warwick Arts Centre’s studio theatre Vicari’s rich and colourful new compositions were brought to life by their composer with the help of Pete Wareham on tenor sax, trumpeter Steve Waterman, Dorian Lockett on bass and talented young drummer James Maddren.
The opening “Golden Gate” was a good introduction to the voices of the band with Wareham’s edgy tenor sax both combining and contrasting well with Waterman’s pure toned trumpet. Vicari delivered the first of many excellent solos and Lockett also featured soloing above a backdrop of piano and drums.
“Café Calypso” lived up to its title with its stop/start calypso rhythms. The two horns were featured both in tandem and as soloists.
“L’Orchestre Des Fous” dates back to the “Suburban Gorillas” album but was re-arranged here for quintet. Vicari produced a truly dazzling solo at the piano followed by Wareham’s probing tenor.
The new composition “Inferior Kilts” opened with Vicari stating the theme on piano before becoming a feature for Waterman. His solo began in stately fashion, steadily building in intensity to become truly fiery. He exchanged phrases with Wareham over a rhythm section that was really starting to cook. We had already heard that Vicari is a fluent soloist but her rhythmic contribution from the keyboard was also highly impressive. She really spurs her front line soloists on and gets the best out of them. This ability was to be even more clearly demonstrated in the second half when the band really took flight.
William Walton’s “Touch Her Sweet Lips And Part” was a considerable surprise and brought about a change of pace. Originally written for the film version of Shakespeare’s Henry V the piece has also been interpreted in a jazz context by pianist John Taylor. Vicari’s arrangement brought about the unusual sight of seeing Pete Wareham in ballad mode rather than the full on amplified sax attack he brings to his own band Acoustic Ladyland. However even in the quietest moments the sense of nervous energy that he brings to Ladyland , Polar Bear and Fulborn Teversham was never far away and became far more evident after the break. The Walton piece saw Waterman on velvety flugelhorn dovetailing with Wareham and there were also solo features for Vicari and Lockett.
The relaxed funk of “Pushback” brought the first half to a close with a rich bass groove providing the spur for solos from Wareham’s tenor and Waterman on trumpet. Lockett’s dark dramatic bowing then provided the canvas for a drum feature from the excellent Maddren. I’d not seen Maddren play before and was very impressed with him not only as a soloist but also as an accompanist. There was a touch of Seb Rochford in his ensemble work, which was gently propulsive but also full of subtle accents and dashes of colour.
The second half began with the only jazz standard of the night, Vicari’s arrangement of “Autumn Leaves”. Lockett introduced the tune with a prolonged bass intro before the horns stated the tune and Vicari soloed briefly. Wareham’s tenor sax ruminations built slowly in intensity finally giving way to another solo from Maddren. It was certainly an interesting take on an old chestnut but not so far out that the original tune was lost altogether.
“Mango Tango” derived its title from Vicari’s young daughter and incorporated the appropriate rhythms. Vicari’s piano vamping fuelled solos from the technically brilliant Waterman on trumpet and from Wareham whose tenor honked, fluttered and produced bat like squeaks as the band really got down. By now they were well into it and clearly enjoying themselves immensely.
“Bar Kineto” more than kept up the pace with more Latin rhythms, this time veering towards the Afro Cuban. This was probably the most accessible number of the night with Waterman, surely one of this country’s finest players, once more shining on trumpet. He was followed by a rollicking solo from Vicari and another intense contribution from Wareham.
An unannounced ballad introduced by Vicari’s unaccompanied piano brought about a change of mood. This provided another opportunity for Waterman to demonstrate his full, warm tone on flugelhorn. There was also a lyrical solo from Vicari and a restrained Wareham on tenor.
The closing “Blues On The Spot” saw the breezy blues based theme provide a platform for each member of the band to show their chops for a final time with Vicari’s vigorous playing giving great support to the horns. Waterman and Maddren traded fours before the drummer took a final solo. From his vocal interjections he was clearly loving every minute of it.
Unfortunately that was it, but the quintet had delivered two sets full of superlative playing in a well-paced programme full of changes in style, mood and rhythm. Vicari’s writing embraces a number of jazz idioms and is consistently varied and interesting. When the album by this line up emerges it should be well worth hearing.
The only real quibble about the evening was a glitch with Lockett’s bass-possibly a loose pick-up or something of this nature. It was apparent from the first number and was never satisfactorily resolved and did sometimes interfere with his sound. It was particularly noticeable on the solo intro to “Autumn Leaves”.
This small misgiving aside it had been an excellent evening. Well done to all concerned including Jazz Coventry for promoting this imaginative music. They consistently bring interesting musicians to the city. See http://www.jazzcov.com for details of future events.
The city’s jazz festival is to be held between 24th and 28th May. See http://www.coventryjazzfestival.com
For details of Andrea Vicari’s work including gigs and album releases see http://www.andreavicari.co.uk
There is a comprehensive biography and history- plus there are some real bargains to be had on the CD front!