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Dean Stockdale Quartet

Dean Stockdale Quartet, ‘Celebrating Oscar’ Kidderminster Jazz Club, St. Ambrose Parish Centre, Kidderminster, Worcs.  07/06/2024.

by Ian Mann

June 10, 2024


Ian Mann enjoys this performance by pianist Dean Stockdale and his quartet as they pay homage to the music of the great Oscar Peterson. He also takes a look at the quartet's "Celebrating Oscar" album.

Dean Stockdale Quartet, ‘Celebrating Oscar’ Kidderminster Jazz Club, St. Ambrose Parish Centre, Kidderminster, Worcs.  07/06/2024

Dean Stockdale – piano, Tim Williams – guitar, Gavin Barras – double bass, Gaz Hughes – drums

Dean Stockdale is a pianist, composer and educator based in County Durham and is a popular and prolific presence on the jazz scene in the North of England.

He started learning the piano at the age of seven and began performing in public at the age of sixteen. Moving to London he became the resident pianist at the Savoy Hotel, which brought him into contact with a host of famous showbiz personalities.

Upon re-locating to Manchester Stockdale formed a jazz trio with bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Adam Dawson, this group recording the 2017 album “Origin”. Review here;

Stockdale subsequently returned to his native North East and in 2021 released the excellent “Promise The Moon”. This was recorded with two musicians most closely associated with the Newcastle jazz scene, the experienced bassist Mick Shoulder and rising star drummer Abbie Finn. Review here;

He has also worked regularly as an in demand sideman, accompanying both singers and instrumentalists. Among those with whom he has worked are vocalists Zoe Gilby and Ruth Lambert, saxophonists Martin Speake, Tommaso Starace, Amy Roberts, Dean Masser, Alan Barnes, Rod Mason, Liam Byrne, Art Themen, Luis Verde and Dave O’Higgins, trumpeters Bruce Adams, Noel Dennis and Martin Shaw, trombonists Dennis Rollins and Mark Nightingale and bassist Ben Crosland. He has also performed in a duo format with fellow pianist Dave Newton and with “Origin” drummer Adam Dawson’s own quartet.

Stockdale has performed with large ensembles such as the Manchester Camerata Orchestra, Manchester Concert Orchestra and the SK2 Big Band, the latter specialising in the music of Stan Kenton. He has also performed regularly for the theatre, including several touring productions.

Both “Origin” and “Promise The Moon” feature a mix of standard material and Stockdale’s original compositions, pieces that reveal him to be a writer of considerable ability.

For his latest album, which was first released in May 2023, Stockdale turns to the music of his primary influence, the late great Canadian pianist and composer Oscar Peterson (1925 – 2007). The album “Celebrating Oscar” sees Stockdale leading a quartet featuring tonight’s line up, with the pianist joined by guitarist Tim Williams, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Gaz Hughes.

In his album liner notes Stockdale says of this latest project;
“I can still distinctly remember the first time I heard Oscar Peterson. My piano teacher gave me one of his CDs when I was 18 and it changed my life.  I have been listening to his music ever since, and he continues to inspire me and countless others to this day. I was lucky enough to see him perform in London the year before he died, and while he couldn’t play in the way he did before his stroke it was an unforgettable night. It was a joy to record his music with these fantastic musicians and we hope you enjoy this little homage to one of the true greats”.

Stockdale also cites  Bill Evans, Gene Harris, Mulgrew Miller and Errol Garner as sources of pianistic inspiration, but it’s Peterson who remains the touchstone with the “Celebrating Oscar” album paying homage to Peterson as both instrumentalist and composer.

During his lifetime Peterson recorded prolifically, often focussing on the music of the ‘Great American Songbook’ and other standard material. But he was also a skilled and imaginative composer and it’s this aspect of his music that Stockdale and his colleagues have chosen to focus on. Of the twelve tracks featured on “Celebrating Oscar” nine are Peterson originals, with several of these sourced from Peterson’s “Canadiana Suite”, the pianist’s celebration of his native Canada, which was released as an album in 1964, with Peterson joined by bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen.

“Celebrating Oscar” features Stockdale’s own arrangements of Peterson’s compositions but Stockdale does not attempt to mimic Peterson’s flamboyant piano style, instead concentrating on playing the music with “joy and integrity” and with a “deep sense of swing”.

In Williams,  Barras and Hughes he has the perfect accompanists and I recall seeing Hughes and Williams performing at The Hive in Shrewsbury in March 2024 when both were part of Hughes’ own quartet, playing music from Hughes’ latest album “Nuclear Bebopalypse”. Also featuring pianist Andrzej Baranek and bassist James Owston (the latter ‘depping’ for Barras) this excellent show is reviewed here;

Tonight’s performance commenced with the first two tracks from the “Celebrating Oscar” album, beginning with Peterson’s own “Blues Etude”, which began quietly before quickly accelerating, propelled by Hughes’ vigorously brushed drum grooves. Stockdale took the first solo, stretching out fluently in piano trio mode as Hughes switched to sticks. I was impressed by Williams’ contribution to the Hughes group at Shrewsbury and he continued to impress here with a typically agile guitar solo. Barras, a bandleader in his own right, was then featured on double bass, as was Hughes at the drums as we were introduced to all of the individual instrumental voices within the band. A short passage of unaccompanied piano then presaged a collective finale. An impressive and enjoyable start.

Nest came an arrangement of the Rodgers and Hart song “Falling in Love with Love”. This was introduced by a syncopated passage of unaccompanied piano, with Stockdale playing KJC’s recently acquired upright acoustic.  A blues inflected arrangement included orthodox jazz solos from Stockdale and Williams, with Hughes again switching between brushes and sticks. Williams favours a clean, orthodox jazz guitar sound with no recourse to any kinds of effects.

Keeping with the album running order Peterson’s own “Bossa Beguine” was a beguiling mix of bossa rhythms and bebop harmonies distinguished by the delightful and intricate interplay between guitar and piano, this followed by fluent individual solos from both Williams and Stockdale. Hughes continued to play with a combination of brushes and sticks and his individual feature towards the close of the tune was a good example of the ‘melodic drumming concept’ that he brings to his own groups.

There was a change from the album sequencing as the quartet performed a second Rodgers and Hart song, “Have You Met Miss Jones”. Peterson’s own take on the song featured an unusual slowed down arrangement and this was mirrored by the Stockdale Quartet’s version of the piece. An expansive solo from Williams featured the group in guitar trio mode before Stockdale took over, this time with the guitarist dropping out.

The Peterson original “Noreen’s Nocturne” commenced with fast, slippery bebop inspired melody lines played in unison by piano and guitar. This was followed by a series of similarly agile exchanges between Stockdale and Williams. Barras’ rapid bass walk and Hughes’ brisk brushwork then fuelled Stockdale’s solo, with Williams subsequently taking over on guitar. Barras was then featured on double bass before the piece closed with the playful interplay of guitar, piano and bass.

The first set concluded with one of Peterson’s most famous ‘hits’, “Night Train”, written by saxophonist Jimmy Forest. With its familiar melody and ‘locomotive’ rhythms this guaranteed crowd pleaser was an excellent way to round off a very good first set, with solos coming from Williams and Stockdale.

Set two saw an even greater emphasis on the work of Peterson the composer, with a particular focus on pieces sourced from the “Canadiana Suite”. From that work came “Place St. Henri”, named for Peterson’s birthplace, a small village near Montreal. Introduced by the unison melody lines of guitar and piano this piece also included accomplished individual solos from Stockdale, Williams and Barras.

Peterson also wrote an “African Suite”,  which was never recorded in full, although the stand out composition “Nigerian Marketplace” served as the title track of a Peterson live album from 1981. Still sounding remarkably contemporary this piece is featured on the “Celebrating Oscar” album and acted was a feature for the brilliant melodic bass playing of Gavin Barras as he soloed above Stockdale’s underlying piano motif. The addition of Williams’ guitar shadings and then Hughes’ drums raised the energy levels, but nevertheless an essential sense of lyricism remained throughout the solos of both Stockdale and Williams. The episodic nature of Peterson’s writing helped to ensure that this piece sounded notably modern.

There was a return to the “Canadiana Suite” material for “Blues of the Prairies”, a genuine blues that was ushered in by a passage of unaccompanied double bass from the increasingly prominent Barras. He was also featured again at the close following solos from Stockdale and Williams.

Also from the “Canadiana Suite” came “Wheatland”, this time introduced by an extended passage of unaccompanied piano from the leader. Guitar, bass and brushed drums were subsequently added, only for the rhythm section to drop out again as Williams soloed with piano accompaniment only. Bass and drums then returned for Stockdale’s solo, with the group now in piano trio mode. This was another piece that sounded refreshingly modern.

It was back to old school virtues with Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues”, a tune that Peterson recorded on the “Night Train” album. Introduced by a series of piano and guitar exchanges this performance sounded authentically bluesy and featured inventive solos from Stockdale and Williams, plus Hughes’ most forceful drumming thus far. An unaccompanied solo from bass virtuoso Barras lowered the temperature, while Hughes also enjoyed a brushed drum feature.

Also from the “Night Train” album Peterson’s own   “Hymn to Freedom” was written in honour of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Stockdale informed us that lyrics were later added to Peterson’s tune (by Harriet Hamilton) and that the resultant song was subsequently sung at President Bara Obama’s inauguration. We also learned that the piece was pretty much written ‘on the fly’ when album producer Norma Granz asked Peterson to write something quickly to complete the second side of the album. Tonight’s performance commenced with a gospel flavoured unaccompanied piano intro from Stockdale and that blues / gospel feel was sustained throughout, with Williams soloing on guitar and Barras flourishing the bow at the close. Not wishing to end on a sombre note the group then upped the energy levels with a brief reprise of “Night Train”.

The deserved encore was the Peterson ballad “When Summer Comes”, an apt title following a particularly long and wet British spring. This was sensitively performed by the trio of Stockdale, Barras and Hughes, the leader starting things off with an unaccompanied piano intro and later delivering a more conventional solo, with the emphasis very much on lyricism. Barras’ melodic double bass soloing was again impressive, with Hughes adding sympathetic support via a combination of brushes and mallets.

It wasn’t the largest audience that we’ve seen at Kidderminster Jazz Club but those that were there very much enjoyed what they’d heard and responded to the music with great enthusiasm.

With 2025 representing the centenary of Peterson’s birth Stockdale is hopeful that there will be many more live performances for this quartet and the “Celebrating Oscar” project. I’ve certainly been impressed with both the recording (apologies to Dean for not reviewing it when it first came out, it somehow slipped through the net) and tonight’ s live performance. I particularly like the fact that Stockdale and the quartet focus on Peterson’s own writing and I have to admit that much of the material was previously unknown to me, which is what I like. It’s good to hear new or unfamiliar music. Meanwhile the better known tunes such as “Night Train” and “C Jam Blues” help to keep audiences very much onside.

The “Celebrating Oscar” album represents recommended listening and the full track listing is;

1. Blues Etude

2. Falling in Love with Love

3. Bossa Beguine

4.Nigerian Marketplace

5. Have You Met Miss Jones

6. Hogtown Blues

7.Land Of The Misty Giants


9. When Summer Comes

10. Noreen’s Nocturne

11. Night Train

12. Hymn To Freedom

The only items from the album not to be performed tonight were “Hogtown Blues”, and “Land Of The Misty Giants” two more pieces from the “Canadiana Suite”. Stockdale’s version of the latter is a beautiful solo piano performance. “When Summer Comes” appears in the piano trio format, as it did this evening.

Dean Stockdale’s recordings are available here;

See also

Please visit for details of further presentations by Kidderminster Jazz Club at St. Ambrose Parish Centre.


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