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Philip Clouts Quartet

Philip Clouts Quartet, Jazz at St Giles,  St Giles Church, Oxford, 07/10/2023.

by Colin May

December 13, 2023


Geust contributoe Colin May enjoys an evening of African inspired music at Jazz at St. Giles, performed by pianist and composer Philip Clouts and his quartet.

The Philip Clouts Quartet
Jazz at St Giles
St Giles Church, Oxford
7 October 2023

Philip Clouts-piano, Sam Eagles-saxophone, Tim Fairhall-double bass, Ted Carrasco- drums

This was the Philip Clouts Quartet’s debut in Oxford though the South African born pianist and composer had been here many years before (2005?) as a member of the exuberant world jazz group Zubop. The Jazz Mann has followed Clouts’ career as a leader in some detail covering his three albums as leader and at least two previous live performances, and all these reviews can all be accessed via

Clouts, with what’s now his regular line-up,  were part of the Jazz at St Giles’ eleventh season autumn series of monthly concerts. Among the artists who’ve appeared over the years have been Jacqui Dankworth who has been Jazz at St Giles patron since 2019, Art Themen, Tommaso Starace, David Gordon Trio and in different guises Ben Holder. The latter two both played in the inaugural series in 2012 and have made several more visits since. A full listing of who has played at Jazz at St Giles is available on their web site.

The success of the Jazz at St Giles has had an important spin off in contributing to the church’s fundraising for War on Want and War Child charities, and since 2022 has also supported organ and choral scholarships for young musicians at St Giles.

For this concert the focus was largely on Philip Clouts’ African influenced compositions rather than his Dorset inspired tunes. Throughout Clouts gave short helpful introductions to the numbers.

It was very much a quartet performance with the sinuous sax of Sam Eagles, a leader himself, and the creative rhythm section of Tim Fairhall and Ted Carrasco all on the same page as Clouts and playing a full part. Eagles in particular featured prominently in almost every number. Unfortunately the sound quality was not of the best and from where I was sitting initially the ensemble playing sounded rather mushy with the piano ‘disappearing’, but things improved considerably when I moved seats.

The attractive rhythmic pulse of ‘Biram Blues’ which Clouts explained had been inspired by the traditional bigram five string harp of Niger triumphed over any sound quality problems, while the fluid playing of the quartet emphasised the lovely lyrical character of ‘African Mood’ composed by South Africa saxophonist Joe Malinga.

The concert wasn’t all African based. Philip Clout’s also took us to New Orleans with his ‘Going to Congo Square’ influenced by Dr John and the New Orleans Marching Band tradition, and which captured the party that takes place there every Sunday.

‘Deco’ was another rumbustious number which was a feature for saxophonist Eagles. In sharp contrast ’ Clef Mona’ (the title Clouts said was an anagram which he left to the audience to solve) and ‘Solitude’, influenced by a Keith Jarrett album of hymns, were quiet reflective pieces. Even Clouts’ ‘Scintillate’ began in reflective fashion before a switch to a style that was more in keeping with it’s title.

The concert while stimulating hadn’t quite achieved lift off but it did with the final two numbers. There was a very beautiful rendition of a long standing favourite of Clouts himself, his Tanzanian inspired ‘Nyasa Lullaby’. Then he and his quartet changed gear and gave an infectious, exuberant performance of his composition strongly influenced by South African Township Jazz, ‘Commotion in C’ which brought the evening to a very uplifting and happy end.

Colin May

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