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Nigel Price Quartet

Nigel Price Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Kings Arms, Abergavenny, 09/10/2014.

Photography: Photograph of Nigel Price sourced from [url=][/url]

by Ian Mann

October 11, 2014


A night of unpretentious, swinging jazz with all four musicians acquitting themselves well - but the sight and sound of a classic Hammond B3 being put through its paces was the icing on the cake.

Nigel Price Quartet, Black Mountain Jazz, Kings Arms, Abergavenny, 09/10/2014.

Former soldier Nigel Price was a comparatively late addition to the ranks of professional musicians but he clearly hasn’t wasted any time since. Price was a member of Hammond guru James Taylor’s long running JTQ but now leads his own organ trio and has recorded several albums in this format. Pete Whittaker and Jim Watson have graced the organ seat in Price’s trios but the present incumbent is Ross Stanley who appeared tonight alongside long serving drummer Matt Home and guest saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos, Greek born but now based in London - “from Athens via Ealing” - as Price succinctly put it. The addition of Xenopoulos ensured that tonight’s show even topped an entertaining performance by the trio (with Pete Whittaker on organ) that I witnessed at Lichfield Real Ale Jazz & Blues Festival in 2011. 

The Price Quartet is currently on a mammoth UK tour that will take them from St. Ives to Edinburgh and will last until well into December, the kind of punishing itinerary that defined minor 70s rock bands. Touring with them will be Stanley’s newly purchased 1961 Hammond B3, a magnificent beast that weighs a whopping twenty eight stones! One rarely sees such monsters nowadays but they were regularly freighted around the country in days of yore. Verden Allen of local rock heroes Mott The Hoople owned a B3 which the band members had to cart around in the group’s early years. Legend has it that their first producer, the late Guy Stevens, only signed the band because he was so impressed at their determination in getting the organ up a flight of stairs prior to their audition with Island Records. On the downside there were tales of bassist Overend Watts being unable to perform at a gig after crushing his fingers manoeuvring the Hammond and of vocalist Ian Hunter’s head being pinned against the wall and his trademark shades being broken. Following this incident Hunter declined to carry the organ again. Let’s hope Stanley and his colleagues have an easier time of it. 

Tonight’s gig represented a welcome return to Abergavenny for Price who had performed at BMJ’s previous venue, the Swan Hotel, with singer Georgia Mancio in 2013 (a show reviewed elsewhere on this site). The organ trio represented a substantially different side to Price’s playing but both shows were rooted in his obvious love of good songs and of the jazz standards repertoire. Even his originals are steeped in the tradition and with Xenopoulos in the band he took the opportunity of exploring a number of the contrafacts (new compositions built upon familiar chord sequences) that appeared on the 2011 album “Heads And Tales” recorded with the trio plus saxophonist Alex Garnett. 

A Price original set the ball rolling, a tune based upon the chord sequence of Miles Davis’ classic “So What” but executed in a style inspired by George Benson. The title? “Benson Hedges”. Price took the first solo followed by rising tenor star Xenopoulos, who runs his own Wind Machine quartet. But it was Stanley’s Hammond that threatened to steel the show as the organist entertained via his two manual keyboard virtuosity and nimble foot pedal bass lines, his playing filtered through an authentic Leslie speaker cabinet (comparatively light in comparison to the organ itself, Stanley later told me).

The popular standard “Lover Man” was given an appealing samba arrangement with Xenopoulos taking the first solo followed by Stanley at the Hammond. Price’s feature included an absorbing passage of unaccompanied guitar.

Another standard, “Up Jumped Spring”, saw Price and his colleagues having fun with the time signatures moving from three to four to fast four and back again on each of the solos. Xenopoulos, Stanley and Price took great delight in accelerating through their solos and Home enjoyed a series of lively drum breaks.

“Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” was a true ballad and revealed a gentler side of the band. Price’s solo guitar introduction was followed by a tender tenor solo from Xenopoulos, the saxophonist displaying genuine emotion above the gentle swell of the Hammond and the swish of delicately brushed drums. The solos here were kept short and sweet with Price and Stanley also featuring.

Maintaining the reflective Price performed the standard “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” as a gently succinct solo guitar piece.

This acted as a kind of prelude to the Price original “Blue Genes” which closed the first set. Based upon the chord sequence of the standard “Janine” and influenced by the style of Pat Martino this was a fiercely swinging piece with Home’s crisp, hard driving drumming fuelling fiery solos from Xenopoulos, Stanley and Price with the drummer also contributing a series of explosive drum breaks. This was a rousing end to a very enjoyable first half and sent the audience into the break feeling very happy.

Among the crowd were members of the young Redrug Band, the local teenage quintet who made such a favourable impression at the recent Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in Abergavenny. The young musicians were certainly knocked out by what they had seen, the skill levels of Price and co. had certainly given them something to aspire to. Mike Skilton of Black Mountain Jazz hopes that the youngsters will be regular attendees at future BMJ club events and may even play the occasional support slot. Let’s hope so, good on you lads.

Introducing the second half Mike Skilton mentioned that Nigel Price has been nominated in the guitar category in the 2014 British Jazz Awards - and rightly so on the evidence of an even better second set. It seemed to me that a few adjustments had been made to the sound during the interval, everything seemed better balanced and more clearly delineated. Also the band seemed more
relaxed , the soloing becoming more and more inspired as they all loosened up.

They began with “All In”, a contrafact from the “Heads and Tales” album based on the celebrated jazz classic “Body and Soul”. The titles of Price’s contrafacts tend to be clever, slyly humorous references to the lyrics of the original pieces, evidence of just how intimately Price knows his source material. The guitarist described his re-invention as being “Body and Soul as you’ve never heard it before” which seemed a fair assessment of a fast swinging number that included ebullient solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Stanley, the organist in particularly inspired form as the Hammond’s valves whistled and wheezed and he pulled out all the bars.

Also from “Heads and Tales” the title “Stealing Time” made oblique reference to the lyrics of Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low”. This second contrafact maintained the energy levels with Stanley followed by the increasingly powerful Xenopoulos on tenor and finally Home with a series of volcanic drum breaks, this leading into a full solo, well constructed and making effective use of both sticks and mallets . Price offered tremendous support to the soloists with his brisk, highly rhythmic chording. His skills as a fluent soloist with nimble single note runs and sophisticated jazz chording are well documented, but he’s also an excellent accompanist (as Georgia Mancio would no doubt attest) with great comping skills.

“Dreamsville”, a rarely heard Henry Mancini tune, was essentially this set’s ballad, played at a languid mid tempo with breathy tenor,  gently swelling Hammond and with Price adopting a warm, syrupy guitar tone. Solos here for guitar, saxophone and organ.

Price described the quartet’s version of Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” as being a “burner”. This wasn’t that surprising given that the arrangement was by Stanley Turrentine, whose recorded version featured Grant Green, another of Price’s musical heroes. Taking the piece at an even faster pace than Turrentine himself the Price quartet delivered some dazzling interplay between tenor sax and guitar, fleet fingered soloing from Price and exciting and expansive excursions from Xenopoulos and Stanley with Home’s hard hitting drum feature maintaining the energy levels to the end.

The Price original “Booze Blooz”, written while suffering with a hangover following attendance at a beer festival ( I can relate to that! ) was a surprisingly lively blues that kept the pot simmering. Price took the first solo, followed Xenopoulos who slipped in a number of quotes, Stanley on blazing Hammond and finally Home with a final series of drum breaks.

This high energy second set was particularly well received by a sizeable BMJ who still wanted more. Price decided to cool things down with the ballad “Angel Eyes”, introduced by a brief passage of solo guitar and featuring concise solos from Price, Xenopoulos and Stanley. This was a “slow burner” with Home deploying mainly brushed drums. A brief solo guitar coda ended the evening on a surprisingly gentle note.

This was a good start to BMJ’s new club season with a well attended night of unpretentious swinging jazz. All four musicians acquitted themselves but the sight and sound of a classic Hammond B3 being put through its paces was the icing on the cake. 

Remaining dates on Nigel Price’s tour are; (sourced from

? Dexter’s
? Fiveways
? Edwards Lane
? Nottingham NG5 3HU

? 15/10/14
? 830pm
? Scarborough Jazz Club
? The Cask Inn
? Cambridge Terrace, Scarborough, YO11 2LH

? 17/10/14
? 8.30pm
? QUARTET with Vas
? The Crypt, Camberwell
? St Giles Trust, Camberwell Church St, London SE5 8JB

? 21/10/14
? 8pm
? QUARTET with Vas
? Fleet Jazz Club
? The Harlington
? 236 Fleet Road, Fleet, Hants, GU51 4BY

? 22/10/14
? 830pm
? QUARTET with Vas
? Swing Unlimited Jazz Club, Bournemouth
? Centre Stage, 14 Queen’s Road, Westbourne, Bournemouth, BH26BE

? 23/10/14
? 830pm
? QUARTET with Vas
? Folkestone Jazz Club
? The Tower Theatre
? North Road, Shorncliffe, Folkestone, Kent. CT20 3HL

? 23/10/14
? QUARTET with Vas
? The Verdict, Brighton
? Edward St, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 0JB

? 27/10/14
? 830pm
? QUARTET with Vas
? Gumbles Jazz Club,
? Stafford
? 53 Peel Terrace STAFFORD ST16 3HE

? 28/10/14
? 8.30pm
? QUARTET with Vas
? North Wales Jazz Club
? Royal British Legion, Llay, Wrexham, LL12 0RL

? 29/10/14
? 8.30pm£10
? The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
? 1A Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1HR

? 30/10/14
? 8.30pm
? The Glasgow Art Club 185 Bath Street Glasgow G2 4HU
? 31/10/14
? Ushaw College,
? Durham DH7 9RH

? 01/11/14
? 1pm
? The Eagle, 124 High Street, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1JT

? 01/11/14
? Fludyers, Felixstowe
? Undercliff Rd E, Felixstowe, Suffolk IP11 7LU

? 06/11/14
? QUARTET with Vas
? The Watermill
? Friends Life Sports and Social Club, Pixham Lane, Dorking, RH41QA

? 13/11/14
? QUARTET with Vas
? Lauderdale House
? waterlow park, Highgate Hill, Greater London N6 5HG

? 830pm
? TRIO Matt Fishwick
? The Green Man, Wroxham Road, Rackheath, Norwich, NR13 6NQ

? 19/11/14
? 830pm
? TRIO Matt Fishwick
? Dereham Jazz Society
? Lakeside Country Club, Quarry Lane, Lyng, Norfolk NR9 5RS

? 20/11/14
? 8.30 pm TRIO
? Matt Fishwick
? The King’s Arms
? 12 St Mary’s Street, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4ES

? 21/11/14
? QUARTET Matt Fishwick + Alex Garnett
? The Billingshurst Centre
? Roman Way, Billingshurst, West Sussex RH14 9EW

? 24/11/14
? Bexley Jazz Club
? 65 Bexley High Street, Bexley Village, Kent DA5 1AA

? 27/11/14
? QUARTET with Vas
? Twickenham Jazz Club
? 209 Staines Rd, Twickenham TW2 5BB

? 16/11/14
? QUARTET with Vas
? Marlow Jazz Club

? 17/12/114
? 830pm
? QUARTET with Vas
? The Woodman.Goathurst Common, Sevenoaks TN14 6BU

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