Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Chris Gumbley Quintet

Chris Gumbley Quintet, ‘Tribute to Cannonball’, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/12/2022.

by Ian Mann

December 11, 2022


This was a show that revealed that there is still very much an audience for ‘straight ahead’ jazz and it represented a great way to round off Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s 2022 concert schedule.

Chris Gumbley Quintet, ‘Tribute to Cannonball’, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 10/12/2022.

Chris Gumbley – alto sax, Neil Yates – trumpet, Andrzej Baranek – piano, Tom Hill – double bass, Carl Hemmingsley – drums

Despite the distraction of the England v France World Cup Quarter Final and the freezing December weather this performance by Midlands based alto saxophonist Chris Gumbley and his stellar quintet drew the largest crowd to date of Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s 2022/23 season to The Hive. This was a show that revealed that there is still very much an audience for ‘straight ahead’ jazz and it represented a great way to round off SJN’s 2022 schedule.

A native of Stafford Gumbley studied at Huddersfield School of Music and also plays clarinet and piano. An acclaimed educator he has held teaching posts in Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham and has also written a number of music instruction books, these being issued under the name Gumbles Publications. His educational work has taken him to the Dominican Republic, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and Turkey.

For more than twenty years he ran Gumbles Jazz Club in Stafford and spent a couple of years broadcasting the Jazzbeat show on BBC Radio Stoke.

Gumbley’s playing career has embraced a number of musical genres, including touring work with The Temptations and The Four Tops. He has also performed with Saxtet,  the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and the Berkley Salon Ensemble. An eclectic mix. He has also been much in demand for theatre and session work.

Gumbley has also performed widely as a jazz musician and his current jazz projects include his long running Tribute to Cannonball band and more recently Much Ado about Jazz,  a tongue in cheek look at the world of jazz which he presents in a duo format with Birmingham based pianist Al Gurr. The Much Ado about Jazz show is particularly well suited to rural touring and Gumbley and Gurr have performed the show at numerous village halls across the Midlands.

Tonight’s show saw Gumbley leading an all star quintet whose faces were all familiar to the Shrewsbury audience, many of them having performed at The Hive with other line-ups on numerous occasions.

If the musicians were ‘old friends’ so was the material, a selection of well known hard bop / soul jazz classics sourced from the repertoire of the alto saxophonist Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (1928-75). The programme was presented in wryly humorous fashion by Gumbley,  whose between tunes announcements also included a number of salient biographical details about Adderley and his career.

The music kicked off an energetic bebop inspired arrangement of “I Remember April”, the two horns combining to state the tricky head before Gumbley delivered his first solo of the evening, followed by Baranek at a Roland keyboard on an acoustic piano setting. The pianist had previously visited The Hive as a member of the Manchester based Magic Hat Ensemble in 2010 and with saxophonist / flautist Casey Greene in 2014. Meanwhile Gumbley recalled that his last visit to SJN and The Hive had been back in 2013.

Next up was “One for Daddy-o”, a slower, blues tinged composition introduced by the trio and with Gumbley and Yates then combining for a brief theme statement. Baranek then stretched out more expansively on piano, before handing over to the leader, whose solo began with double bass accompaniment only. Gumbley is a highly fluent and inventive alto soloist and these qualities also distinguished Yates’ playing as the trumpeter stepped up next.  Yates, a bandleader in his own right,  is currently based in Colwyn Bay where he runs a jazz club at the Penrhyn Arms. Finally we heard from double bassist Hill, always a favourite with audiences, who introduced a dash of his trademark musical humour into his solo.

Gumbley now told us a little about Adderley, who was born in Tampa, Florida in 1928 and variously worked as a car salesman and a school teacher before becoming a full time musician and moving to New York City in 1955, following in the wake of his younger brother Nat (trumpet, cornet, born 1931). Indeed Cannonball had started out on trumpet himself before switching to saxophone during his high school years.

The biographical details were delivered in ‘instalments’ so now we heard more music with a punchy arrangement of bassist Sam Jones’ composition “Del Sasser”, the two horns again doubling up to state the memorable theme before diverging to deliver their individual solos, Gumbley going first and with Baranek following Yates.

Cannonball’s first quintet included brother Nat plus drummer Jimmy Cobb. Cannonball then joined Miles Davis in 1957 and appeared on Davis’ classic 1959 album “Kind of Blue”, a record that also featured the playing of Cobb. 

The next musical item was a version of Nat Adderley’s composition “Jive Samba” which saw Baranek, Gumbley and Yates soloing over a propulsive Latin groove, with Yates’ contribution notable for some remarkable high register trumpeting.

The first set concluded with performances of two absolute hard bop classics. First up was “Jeanine”, written by pianist Duke Pearson, which commenced with a twin horn theme statement and which featured solos from Gumbley and Baranek.

“Dis Here”, written by one time Adderley and Jazz Messengers pianist Bobby Timmons came next. This was introduced by the trio of Baranek, Hill and Hemmingsley, with Baranek also featuring as a soloist alongside trumpeter Yates.

Thus ended a highly enjoyable and very well received first set with many members of the audience relishing the familiarity of the programme after hearing more experimental original material at the gigs in September, October and November. That said variety has always been of the strength of SJN’s programming and long may it continue to be so, with all styles of jazz being welcomed at The Hive.

The shorter second set commenced with “Tribute To Brownie”, Duke Pearson’s homage to the tragic figure of the brilliant young trumpeter Clifford Brown who perished in an automobile accident in 1956, aged only twenty six. Brown’s death inspired a number of musical tributes from his musician colleagues, among them saxophonist Benny Golson’s enduring “One For Clifford”.
Tonight’s version of Pearson’s tribute was ushered in by a duo of drums and trumpet, later joined by alto, bass and piano. Solos came from Gumbley, Yates and Hill, with trumpeter Yates exhibiting something of the late Brown’s awesome technical facility. All these years later Brown’s death still resonates deeply within the jazz community.

Gumbley had promised the sequel to Timmons’ “Dis Here” and it duly arrived in the form of the pianist’s “Dat Dere”, largely a feature for Baranek who was allowed to really stretch out at the keyboard. This was essentially a trio performance with Gumbley and Yates only appearing for brief theme statements at the beginning and end of the piece. However Hill and Hemmingsley were to feature more prominently with a lively, and sometimes humorous, set of bass and drum exchanges.

Cannonball was never a prolific composer, brother Nat is probably better known as a writer, particularly for the enduringly popular “Work Song”. But Cannonball’s “Sack O’ Woe” is something of a jazz classic and the Gumbley quintet delivered a terrific performance of the piece with pounding piano fuelling Yates’ trumpet solo and with Gumbley commencing his alto solo with the accompaniment of double bass only. Baranek then weighed in at the piano, followed by a flamboyant double bass solo from the irrepressible Hill.

Gumbley encouraged the audience to clap along with another Cannonball composed tune, “Sticks”, a 1966 offering from the ‘soul jazz’ period. This was a particularly high energy performance from the band and not everybody in the audience lasted the pace!. Guilty as charged M’Lud, but then I was taking notes and can thus inform you that the featured soloists were trumpeter Yates and pianist Baranek.

SJN chairman Mike Wright had little difficulty in encouraging an encore, a version of the classic “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, written by Adderley pianist Joe Zawinul, a musician destined to achieve even greater fame as the co-leader (with saxophonist Wayne Shorter) of Weather Report.
Zawinul’s gospel flavoured composition was introduced in piano trio format with Baranek featuring as a soloist. Rather than take individual solos Gumbley and Yates treated us to a thrilling series of alto / trumpet exchanges, but playing as one on the opening and closing theme statements.

This performance of one of Adderley’s greatest hits was a terrific way to round off a hugely enjoyable evening at The Hive and the members of the audience went home very happy, despite the disappointing England result!

My thanks to Chris Gumbley for speaking with me afterwards and also to photographer Melody McLaren whose excellent pictures from the gig can be viewed on the Shrewsbury Jazz Network Facebook page here;

My apologies to Melody who had given me permission to utilise one of her images to illustrate this review. It is a source of considerable regret that a technical issue within the Jazzmann site has prevented me from doing so and that I have been forced to use a stock image of Chris instead.



blog comments powered by Disqus