by Ian Mann
November 23, 2020
Ian Mann enjoys a 'virtual' visit to Karamel for a performance featuring pieces from Henry Lowther's latest album, all delivered in the thoughtful and lyrical Still Waters house style.
Photograph of Henry Lowther sourced from the EFG London Jazz Festival website http://www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk
Henry Lowther’s Still Waters
Livestream from Karamel, first streamed 16/11/2020
Part of EFG London Jazz Festival, 2020
Henry Lowther – trumpet, Pete Hurt – tenor saxophone, Liam Dunachie – piano, Dave Green – double bass, Paul Clarvis – drums
I have to admit that I stumbled into this livestream almost by accident. I’d been viewing a short compilation video from performances from the Wall2Wall Virtual Jazz Festival from Abergavenny (an event that has been comprehensively covered elsewhere on the Jazzmann) when this recent EFG LJF performance popped up as the next item.
My interest was immediately piqued. I’ve always enjoyed Henry Lowther’s playing and composing, particularly within the context of his long running Still Waters quintet.
I was also intrigued by the venue itself. Karamel is one of the London jazz venues that I’ve not enjoyed the pleasure of visiting. Tucked away up in Wood Green in N22 it’s part of the Collage Arts complex and is a vegan restaurant, art gallery and live performance space.
Collage Arts is an arts development charity based in the Haringey Cultural Quarter that includes provision of artist studios, live events and young people’s training programmes among its numerous activities.
During the course of EFG LJF 2020 Karamel presented eleven livestream jazz events as part of the Festival. These were filmed by Collage Arts and can be accessed via the Karamel Music Online and the EFG London Jazz Festival websites.
The Still Waters quintet has led an intermittent existence dating back for over twenty years. In 1997 the group released its debut album “I.D.” on drummer Paul Clarvis’ own Village Life record label. The line up at this time featured Lowther, Clarvis, bassist Dave Green, saxophonist Julian Arguelles and pianist Pete Saberton. The album included seven Lowther original compositions, a version of the Rodgers & Hart song “It Never Entered My Mind” and a stunningly beautiful Arguelles arrangement of Gustav Holst’s “In The Bleak Midwinter”, my favourite piece of Christmas music.
The follow up was a long time coming. “Can’t Believe Won’t Believe” eventually arrived in 2018, again on Village Life, and featured Lowther, Clarvis and Green alongside Pete Hurt on tenor sax and Barry Green (no relation) at the piano. By this time Hurt had been a member of the group for well over a decade (he was part of the band whose playing I enjoyed at the 2008 Brecon Jazz Festival), while Barry Green had taken over from Saberton, who sadly passed away far too early in 2012.
The splendid “Can’t Believe, Won’t Believe” was well worth waiting for and my review of the recording, which also contains further biographical details regarding Lowther, can be read here;
2019 then saw Lowther and Still Waters touring extensively in support of the new album and live reviews of shows in Reading (by guest contributor Trevor Bannister) and Wolverhampton (by Ian Mann) can also be found elsewhere on the Jazzmann site.
Perhaps unsurprisingly all of the material that formed part of this set from Karamel was sourced from the most recent album and featured four compositions from Lowther, plus one from the pen of Hurt, all delivered in the thoughtful and lyrical Still Waters house style. There was also to be something of a ‘bonus’ at the end, but I’ll come to that later.
The nucleus of Lowther, Hurt, Dave Green and Clarvis was augmented by Liam Dunachie at the piano, who did a brilliant job of deputising for regular pianist Barry Green. “Barry is currently
locked down in two countries at once” remarked Lowther, in typically enigmatic fashion.
The usually loquacious Lowther was more succinct than usual, preferring to let the music do the talking. First up was “Can’t Believe, Won’t Believe”, with Lowther dedicating the title track to “sceptics everywhere”. The piece was ushered in by Clarvis at the drums, his delicately nuanced introduction eventually leading into the almost hymn like theme, followed by lyrical, effortlessly fluent solos from Lowther on trumpet, Hurt on tenor and Dunachie at the piano.
“T.L.” was dedicated to the memory of the late drummer Tony Levin, with whom Lowther had once played. This was a surprisingly gentle and lyrical, but unmistakably heartfelt, tribute, which again featured delicately lyrical solos from Lowther, Hurt and Dunachie.
Hurt’s own “Capricorn” injected a little more urgency, but remained true to the essentially lyrical Still Waters aesthetic. Hurt led off the solos here, followed by the excellent Dunachie. Lowther than took over on trumpet and there were also features for Green on double bass and Clarvis at the drums.
A word here for Liam Dunachie. Originally from Ludlow, Shropshire Dunachie is now based in London following studies at Trinity College, Cambridge and The Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. A supremely versatile musician he is greatly in demand as a ‘dep’ and I remember him covering for Ross Stanley, on Hammond organ, with trombonist Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio at the 2016 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival. Dunachie rose to the task brilliantly, as he did again here in the very different musical environment of the Still Waters quintet.
“Golovec”, saw Lowther taking up the composer’s mantle once more. Named for a forest in Slovenia, where the composer once walked this was introduced by a thoughtful passage of unaccompanied double bass from the always immaculate Dave Green. This set the tone for typically lyrical solos from Lowther, Hurt and Dunachie, with Green then bringing things full circle again at the bass.
The quintet completed their performance with Lowther’s “Something Like”. This is a piece inspired by Lowther’s travels to Morocco and the music of the Gnawa people. The trumpeter played with Gnawan musicians at the Rabat Jazz Festival and although he didn’t deliberately set out to write a piece in this vein the memory of the experience, particularly the Gnawans’ use of huge metal castanets (or qraqebs), stayed with him and expressed itself via this composition. Green and Dunachie combined to create a rhythmic motif that approximated the sound of the North African rhythms and helped to fuel the inventive soloing of Lowther, Dunachie and Hurt, with Clarvis also featuring at the drums.
This marked the end of the performance by the regular quintet, but there was something of a bonus before the stream ended with Lowther introducing a solo piano performance by Barry Green, from whichever country the latter was locked down in. Barry performed Hurt’s composition “Elegy –For Pete”, a dedication to the late Pete Saberton, the original Still Waters pianist. The piece is also the final track on the “Can’t Believe, Won’t Believe” album.
This represented a fitting way to round off an excellent performance by Still Waters and emphasised the continuity of this long running band, with Barry Green providing the link between the late Saberton and tonight’s occupant of the piano chair, the consistently impressive Liam Dunachie.
Congratulations are due to Collage Arts for the quality of their presentation with an immaculate sound matched to video coverage that included close ups of the individual musicians as they soloed, a plus point commented upon by a member of the online audience in the accompanying discussion thread.
I rather enjoyed my first visit to Karamel, albeit that it was only a virtual one. Maybe I’ll get the chance to check the venue out for real next year.
This performance by Henry Lowther’s Still Waters can be viewed at;
blog comments powered by Disqus