by Ian Mann
February 10, 2021
An evening of excellent, swinging, unpretentious jazz from a hugely talented trio led by drummer Dave Storey and featuring saxophonist James Allsopp and organist Ross Stanley.
Dave Storey Trio
Livestream presented by Jazz Steps from Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham, 05/02/2021
Dave Storey – drums, James Allsopp – tenor saxophone, Ross Stanley – organ
I was requested (via email) to publicise this event by Carl Billson, the chair of the volunteer committee of the Nottingham based jazz promoters Jazz Steps.
This not for profit organisation has been presenting jazz in Nottinghamshire since 1997 at a variety of venues, including the Bonington Theatre in Arnold, Nottingham. It has also instigated an innovative scheme that sees jazz acts touring Nottinghamshire and presenting live performances at the county’s libraries.
Having heard about this event I decided to tune in myself, and also to write a short review. I have been aware of the activities of Jazz Steps for a number of years through my friend Bob Meyrick. Born in South Wales but a long time resident of Nottingham Bob has been an important presence at Jazz Steps for a number of years. He is also a highly talented photographer whose images of musicians have appeared in music magazines and on album covers. Bob has always returned to Wales every August to photograph Brecon Jazz Festival and we have worked together on numerous occasions, with his marvellous images illustrating The Jazzmann’s Festival coverage. 2020 was the first year in over a decade that we haven’t met up in Brecon over the course of the summer.
Bob has always been keen for me to attend a Jazz Steps event, but a return trip to Nottingham from my Herefordshire base is just a bit too far to do in the course of a single evening. However one of the few positive things to come out of the Covid pandemic is the fact that you can now attend gigs that you wouldn’t previously have had a cat in hell’s chance of getting to, albeit only virtually.
With this in mind I was delighted to drop in, ‘virtually’ of course, at Peggy’s Skylight, one of the regular venues used by Jazz Steps. Established in 2018 by pianist Paul Deats and vocalist Rachael Foster Peggy’s has quickly become a staple on the Nottingham jazz scene with an excellent reputation for both its food and its music.
I was also drawn to this gig by the presence of three excellent musicians, all of whom have appeared regularly on the Jazzmann web pages. Tonight’s performance was made under the leadership of Dave Storey, a young London based drummer and composer. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music where his drum tutors included such influential musicians as Martin France, Tim Giles, Mark Sanders, Gene Calderazzo and Jim Hart.
Since completing his Masters Storey has become a busy presence on the London jazz scene, performing regularly at clubs such as Ronnie Scott’s, Kansas Smitty’s, The Vortex and the 606.
As an in demand sideman Storey has appeared on the Jazzmann web pages on numerous occasions performing with band leaders such as saxophonists Tom Barford and Tom Smith and pianists Tom Millar and Sam Leak. He is also a member of trombonist Olli Martin’s quintet and of Moostak Trio, led by guitarist Harry Christelis.
Storey is also the leader of a well established trio featuring James Allsopp on tenor saxophone and Conor Chaplin on double bass. Taking their inspiration from the classic saxophone trios of Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson this trio have recorded two highly enjoyable albums, “Bosco” (2019) and “Jouska” (2020), both of which have been reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.
Both recordings by the Storey trio have been broadly within the well defined parameters of the jazz tradition, but with the band members bringing a contemporary slant to the music. The trio have described their approach thus;
“The music reflects reverence and respect of the jazz tradition without ever being beholden to its dogma, which results in music that feels unpretentious but never throwaway or without considerable weight”.
For this performance at ‘Peggy’s’, as the Nottingham venue is affectionately known by its many regulars, Storey brought along a variation on his usual trio with bassist Conor Chaplin replaced by organist Ross Stanley. Inevitably this resulted in music that sounded very different. Despite being led by Storey from the drums this new line up was essentially an ‘organ trio’ and the material that was played was drawn very much from this tradition. Indeed if you closed your eyes you could have been listening to a classic Blue Note recording from the late 1950s or early 60s.
With exceptions of the standards “Once In A While” and “Body and Soul” the material was all composed by saxophonist Allsopp, a series of strong original themes written very much within the tradition and constructed in such a way as to give the individual soloists plenty of room in which to stretch out and explore. Alongside Storey himself Allsopp was also a significant composing presence on the “Jouska” album, although none of the tunes that appeared there were featured tonight.
Allsopp has written and performed far more radical music elsewhere, notably with his own Fraud and Golden Age Of Steam projects, but he also harbours a very healthy respect for the jazz tradition, and it was this side of his musical personality that we got to enjoy here.
The trio commenced with two Allsopp compositions, “The Chiseller” and “D-Flat”, the latter named for “the key it’s written in”. Both represented sturdy slices of classic organ trio jazz with Allsopp and Stanley both delivering fluent but powerful solos during the former, before trading ideas with Storey, who enjoyed a series of colourful drum breaks.
“D-Flat” offered more of the same, this time with Stanley going first on his two manual modern Hammond, complete with Leslie speaker cabinet. Stanley is arguably the leading jazz organist in the country and is a popular figure with Nottingham jazz audiences following a number of appearances at the Bonington Theatre with a variety of different outfits. A highly versatile musician he is also a supremely accomplished acoustic pianist. Stanley was followed by Allsopp, specialising exclusively on tenor tonight, although he also plays baritone sax and both clarinet and bass clarinet. Finally we heard from the leader, with an extended drum feature underscored by the sounds of Stanley’s Hammond.
The trio then cooled things down a little with a ballad version of the standard “Once In A While”, with Storey imparting a subtle, mid tempo swing that underpinned the solos of Allsopp and Stanley.
The relaxed mood continued into Allsopp’s own “The Rain Song”, another ballad, but this time with subtle Latin / Bossa inflections. The composer stated the theme before stretching out with a more expansive solo, followed by Stanley at the keys, as Storey continued to offer understated support, subtly prompting from the kit.
Allsopp’s “The Goose” delivered an injection of energy, another classic piece of organ trio jazz featuring the composer’s robust but fluent tenor soloing and Stanley’s soulful Hammond explorations. Storey was also featured at the drums in a series of lively exchanges with both Allsopp and Stanley.
The trio’s version of the classic jazz ballad “Body and Soul” represented something of a feature for Allsopp, who demonstrated his skills as a balladeer with a gently emotive solo, followed by Stanley at the keys as Storey deployed brushes throughout.
Following this tender interlude the trio rounded things off by upping the energy levels once more. “Magnum Masher”, a new tune presumably written by Allsopp, saw the saxophonist stating the theme before handing over to the excellent Stanley for the first solo. The organist’s bluesy, gospel flavoured excursions were followed by Allsopp’s powerful sax solo, with the composer really tearing it up on tenor. It was then left to the leader to round things off with an intelligently constructed solo drum feature.
There may have been no real surprises here but this was an evening of excellent, swinging, unpretentious jazz from a hugely talented trio. Allsopp and Stanley both impressed as fluent, imaginative, and sometimes fiery soloists, while Storey held everything together from the kit, unobtrusively prompting, pushing and encouraging, as well as making the most of his own moments in the spotlight. Given the amount of original material that Allsopp has written for this group it would be good to hear it documented on disc, a thought for Storey’s next album perhaps?
With Tom on sound and John on film both the audio and visual qualities of this livestream were excellent with a number of different camera angles being used throughout the set. One of the bonuses of watching jazz performances on livestream is being able to enjoy the visual details and subtleties that are less easily visible at a real live gig, the close ups of fingers on keys or of sticks on skins and metals for example.
As a newcomer to Peggy’s I had hoped to see a bit more of the venue itself and to have got a ‘feel’ for the place, but the subdued lighting precluded this. However I suspect that most of the audience of seventy or so were probably Peggy’s regulars, with the probable exception of one adventurous soul who was tuning in from Uruguay, proof of the global outreach of the livestream phenomenon. I suspect that even when a degree of so called normality is restored gigs will continue to be filmed and livestreamed. This is an addition to the music scene that is surely here to stay.
My thanks to Carl Billson for alerting me to this event and well done to all at Jazz Steps and at Peggy’s Skylight for presenting this highly enjoyable performance.
Peggy’s hopes to return to genuine live gigs in April with the visit of flautist Chip Wickham. Please visit https://peggysskylight.co.uk/to keep up to date with forthcoming live and virtual events.
The Jazz Steps website can be found at;
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