by Ian Mann
July 26, 2012
Ian Mann enjoys the most musically diverse day of the festival - and the sun shone too!
Sunday at Titley Jazz 2012
The Rodd Farm Estate, Titley, Herefordshire, 22/07/2012
In terms of weather alone Sunday was easily the best day of this very enjoyable and successful festival. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and a pleasant, cooling breeze kept the temperature bearable, it was almost perfect. Musically the Sunday just about shaded it too with the most diverse programming of the three days ranging from the intimate duo of Stan Tracey and Andy Cleyndert to two hard hitting Blue Note style sextets, a touch of trad and swing from Alan Barnes’ all star clarinet group plus the classy vocals of singer Anita Wardell.
STAN TRACEY / ANDREW CLEYNDERT DUO
One of the surprise successes of the 2011 festival was the early Sunday morning duo set from pianist Dave Newton and bassist Mick Hutton, superficially a gently relaxing start to the day but also a set full of genuine musical sophistication. Festival organiser David Masters decided to stick with a successful format but with a change of personnel with the veteran pianist Stan Tracey accompanied by his long term musical associate bassist Andrew Cleyndert.
As I mentioned in my Saturday coverage even in his mid eighties Tracey is playing as brilliantly as ever having absorbed the influence of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington to create his own unique piano style. Tracey’s playing is often described as “chunky and percussive” or “Monk like” but this exposed duo situation revealed that there is far more to it than that.
This brilliant series of duo exchanges was sometimes playful but at other times surprisingly tender with Cleyndert a brilliant foil throughout. There were no tune announcements but I took most of the material to be standards, albeit heavily disguised in some cases. I don’t intend to try and guess what they were and at the end of the set I was surprised at how few notes I’d made, basically I just sat back and enjoyed the music, much of which was sublime. Not that there was anything wishy washy about the duo’s playing, much of the music was surprisingly rhythmic courtesy of Cleyndert’s deeply resonant bass lines and Stan’s typically assertive left hand figures. This mix of the earthy and the beautiful was wholly compelling with even Cleyndert’s numerous bass solos maintaining the listener’s interest.
At the end of the second set the Titley crowd gave the pair a tremendous reception, probably the loudest of the weekend, with many members of the audience getting to their feet. David Masters accorded the duo the honour of a rare encore at this tightly scheduled festival. After this there was more rapturous applause, a genuine show of affection and a clear indication of the esteem in which Stan Tracey is held by the British jazz public. The man has become a living legend.
BLUE NOTE SEXTET
This celebration of the music of the iconic Blue Note record label was led by tenor saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, here with confidence fully restored after his misfortunes on the festival Friday. The rest of the sextet comprised of Art Themen on tenor and soprano saxes, Mark Nightingale on trombone and a rhythm section featuring John Donaldson on piano, Mick Hutton on bass and Blue Note aficionado Clark Tracey at the drums. Given the label’s long affiliation with leading trumpeters such as Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard I was rather surprised that maybe Dick Pearce wasn’t involved too. In the event it didn’t really matter as the sextet produced two vigorous and stimulating sets with the soloists urged on by Tracey’s whiplash drumming.
The sextet began with a tune first played by Sonny Rollins and J J Johnson (sorry, I missed the title) with the first two solos taken by their modern day counterparts O’Higgins and Nightingale. Themen contributed a second tenor solo and we also heard from Donaldson and Hutton before a series of sizzling drum breaks from Tracey as he traded fours with Nightingale and O’Higgins.
The energy levels were retained through Nat Adderley’s “One For Daddy O” (soloists Nightingale, Themen, O’Higgins, Donaldson) and Dexter Gordon’s “Fried Bananas” with solos from Themen, in particularly fine form on tenor, Nightingale, O’Higgins, Donaldson plus more Tracey drum breaks.
Fred Lacey’s “Theme For Ernie” represented this set’s ballad episode with the twin tenors of O’Higgins and Themen combining for an unaccompanied introduction before soloing in turn with bassist Mick Hutton also featuring as Tracey demonstrated great sensitivity with the brushes.
It made for a pleasant change to see Themen switching to soprano as the sextet closed their first set with “Nica’s Dream” by the perpetually popular Horace Silver. This dedication to the “Jazz Baroness” (Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter) featured solos from O’Higgins on tenor, Nightingale on trombone, Themen on tenor and Tracey at the drums, an excellent conclusion to a punchy and highly entertaining first half.
During the festival a group of guys had been fashioning themselves some rather impressive sun hats in a variety of different styles out of old newspapers. These were very striking and at the beginning of the second set one of the chaps lent one to Art Themen who wore it for the first number before returning it to its maker/owner. The tune was a segue Tadd Dameron’s “Ladybird” and Charlie Parker’s “Half Nelson” with the nattily attired Art leading off the solos on tenor followed by Nightingale, O’ Higgins and Donaldson plus the now customary Tracey drum breaks.
The sextet positively romped their way through Joe Henderson’s “Recorda Me” with Nightingale taking the first solo on trombone followed by O’Higgins on tenor. Themen was back on soprano for a brilliant solo that included a duet with bassist Hutton as the saxophonist slipped in a quote from “The Girl From Ipanema”. Donaldson and Hutton helped to round things off. Great fun.
The saxophonists left the stage to allow Nightingale to feature on this set’s ballad, a version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark”. The trombonist played with an extraordinary expressiveness both on the unaccompanied intro and on the subsequent conventional jazz solo with Donaldson also displaying a supremely lyrical touch at the piano.
The final item came from the pen of Blue Mitchell and had a definite carnival atmosphere with some excellent interplay between the horns and fine solos from all three plus a volcanic drum feature from Tracey. What a great way to round off two dynamic sets of absolutely timeless music.
FIVE TAKES ON BENNY GOODMAN
Another surprise success at the 2011 festival was Clarinet Marmalade a celebration of the instrument from the twin clarinets of Alan Barnes and Julian Marc Stringle. This year Barnes expanded the project by inviting no less than four other clarinettists to join him. Stringle returned in the company of Mark Crooks, Robert Fowler and Iain Dixon, the latter replacing the advertised Andy Panayi. All five players doubled up on various types of saxophone but the saxes were merely used to provide colour and texture and to add depth to the arrangements, all soloing was done exclusively on the clarinet. Joining this unique five man front line was the “house” rhythm section of David Newton (piano), Steve Brown (drums) and on bass Andy Cleyndert stepping in for the advertised Alec Dankworth.
The octet’s repertoire was mainly drawn from tunes associated with the “King of Swing” Benny Goodman, himself a fine clarinettist as well as the leader of a popular swing era big band and numerous smaller splinter groups. It was with these that Goodman made much of his most interesting music.
In a direct link to last year’s clarinet session the octet kicked off with the tune “Clarinet Marmalade”, first recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. There was a veritable string of solos with all five clarinettists contributing.
Although not physically present Panayi was very much there in spirit and had provided the group with an extremely difficult arrangement of Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way” which managed to trip the band up. Nonetheless there was much to enjoy about the solos of Crooks and Fowler plus the interchanges between the two and also the rousing “mini big band” finish.
The octet then managed to navigate their way through another Panayi arrangement, in this case “Dizzy Spells” rather more successfully with solos from Dixon and Stringle plus Newton at the piano. Barnes seemed relieved to got Panayi’s rather tricky arrangements out of the way early on.
Pee Wee Russell’s autobiographical “Pee Wee Blues” was much simpler in form and seemed more to the group’s liking with Cleyndert taking the opening solo at the bass followed by the massed clarinets of Fowler, Barnes, Crooks and Stringle.
The composer Brook Bowman died tragically at the age of twenty four in an automobile accident in 1937. His name lives on through the jazz standard “East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon” originally recorded by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Iain Dixon’s arrangement had a big band feel with his fellow reed players all doubling on saxes as Dixon became the only featured clarinet soloist. The Manchester based musician was clearly well known to the audience (I assume that he used to play at Appleby) and the crowd gave him a tremendous reception.
The set closed with Goodman’s “Rachel’ Dream”, a dedication to one of his daughters, with Barnes the featured soloist.
Set two began with “Slipped Disc” which Barnes dedicated to Art Themen, a reference to the saxophonist’s parallel career as an orthopaedic surgeon. A lively start saw solos from all five clarinettists plus a typically witty and humorous piano feature from Dave Newton.
A Tony Coe tune was up next which Barnes described as being “very beautiful”. No arguments there about an unusual arrangement featuring Mark Crooks as the clarinet soloist and with the twinned bass clarinets of Barnes and Dixon adding warmth and depth to the music.
“Limehouse Blues” was altogether more light hearted, a feature for the popular Julian Marc Stringle with Newton also weighing in at the piano.
“Poor Butterfly” allowed Barnes to reveal his sensitive side as the featured clarinettist before Dixon’s arrangement of Goodman’s “Jersey Bounce” took things breezing out with Barnes adding flute to his armoury and with solos from Fowler and Crooks, the pair also thrillingly trading phrases.
ANITA WARDELL QUARTET
Raised in Australia but now based in London singer Anita Wardell is now one of the UK’s most accomplished vocalists. She is also an acclaimed educator who has taught many of Britain’s up and coming young jazz singers. Particularly noted for her scatting ability she is also a noted exponent of the art of “vocalese” the addition of new lyrics to existing instrumental tunes.
For her Titley début Wardell brought along her regular group of pianist and arranger Robin Aspland, double bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Tristan Maillot, the nucleus of the band that appeared on Wardell’s most recent release 2008’s “Kinda Blue” (Proper Records). Wardell and the quartet recorded anew album in April which will be released on Specific, Proper’s jazz outlet in 2013. Most of today’s material will appear on the new record.
The quartet commenced with Vincent Youmans’ “Without A Song”, a good introduction to Wardell’s voice, an extraordinarily flexible instrument which she deployed to scat and soar as well as delivering the lyric. Aspland entered into the spirit of the weekend by sliding a Monk quote into his solo and bassist Brown was also heard to good effect. I’m pleased Steve Brown wasn’t drumming, he’s worked with Wardell in the past but it could have become frighteningly confusing for your reviewer.
Brown’s bass introduced “You’re My Thrill” with Wardell’s sensual vocal cushioned by the gentle rolling and rumbling of Maillot’s mallets allied to Aspland’s unimpeachable piano lyricism.
I first encountered Aspland’s playing several years ago when he formed part of a British pick up band backing visiting American alto saxophonist Bobby Watson. The British trio acquitted themselves superbly at a hugely exciting gig with Aspland making a particularly notable contribution. I’ve admired his playing ever since but hadn’t seen him play for quite a while so his presence at Titley represented something of a bonus. Aspland is also a highly skilled arranger and had come up with an inventive interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s “Superwoman” which was introduced by a divine duet between voice and piano, the tune gradually building momentum with the introduction of Maillot’s hand drums and Brown’s bass.
The audacious group arrangement of “Surrey With A Fringe On Top” was both playful and clever with Wardell’s broken line verses and vocal scatting augmented by Aspland’s sparkling piano solo and Maillot’s colourful drum breaks.
Duke Ellington’s “In My Solitude” demonstrated Wardell’s way with a ballad sympathetically accompanied by Aspland at the piano. he is very much the singer’s “right hand man”.
The final item of the first set was a kind of blues scat with tongue twisting hipster lyrics, the nearest Titley is ever likely to get to rap. With more pianistic pyrotechnics from Aspland and another dazzling trading of choruses from Maillot this was a bright way to end a thoroughly entertaining first set.
The second half opened with a breezy Brazilian samba with Portugese lyrics ( English translation “You and Me”). Instrumental solos came from Aspland and Brown.
Wardell and her bassist duetted effectively on Irving Berlin’s “Reaching For The Moon” with Aspland also making a telling contribution.
“Every Breath I Take” by Cy Coleman with lyrics by David Zippel featured Wardell’s most emotive singing with typically sympathetic support from the excellent Aspland.
A second Vincent Youmans tune, “My Shining Hour” was a vehicle for Wardell’s formidable scatting abilities and her talent for vocalese was typified by her lyrics for Pat Metheny’s “Travels”. The guitarist’s beautiful melody is something of a personal favourite and I was initially more than a little sceptical about whether the addition of a lyric would work but despite the occasional saccharine line Wardell’s words worked very well on the whole and certainly captured something of the spirit of Metheny’s tune.
To close Wardell turned to the music of another contemporary composer, the maverick Brazilian Hermeto Pascoal and his “Frevo En Macio”, a tune with “tons of notes” as Wardell put it, gave her a final opportunity to scat and spar with the instrumentalists. This fun but tricky workout also included features for Aspland and Maillot and brought Wardell’s set to an energetic conclusion that was well received by the Titley faithful, including some who had professed to not liking vocal jazz. Anita Wardell was another musician who had made a lot of new fans at the festival and is another one who may even return. Look out for that new album too.
It’s a tradition that the festival should close as well as open with an ensemble led by the indefatigable Alan Barnes. Here, reunited with his alto sax he led a sextet paying tribute to the music of the late Julian “Cannonball” Adderley with Art Themen standing in on tenor for the indisposed Don Weller. The rest of the group featured the familiar faces of Dick Pearce on trumpet, David Newton on piano, Andy Cleyndert on bass and Steve Brown at the drums.
“Our Delight” opened the proceedings in energetic fashion with solos by Barnes on alto, Pearce on trumpet, Themen on tenor, Newton at the piano plus the obligatory drum breaks from Brown.
“Work Song”, written by his trumpet playing brother Nat is perhaps the most famous tune associated with Cannonball. The three horns caroused brilliantly on the famous hook and Pearce on brassy trumpet, Barnes on biting alto and Themen on powerful tenor all delivered impassioned solos. At the piano Newton added a touch of mischief by breaking into a fast boogie and Cleyndert wrapped things up on the bass.
A joyous “Del Sasser” again featured the three horns working together in exciting fashion prior to solos by Themen, Pearce, Barnes and Newton plus Brown’s drum breaks.
Frank Roselino’s “Blue Daniel” slowed the pace, one of the more elegant items in the Adderley repertoire it featured Pearce on trumpet and Themen on soprano plus Barnes and Newton.
“Sack Of Woe” adopted a rock/boogie feel with incisive solos from Barnes, Themen on tenor, Pearce and Newton with the pianist shoehorning in some more Monk quotes. This was a rollicking end to a largely energetic first set.
Barnes didn’t bother announcing the first item of the second half but the band hit the ground running with solos from Pearce on trumpet, Themen on tenor and Cleyndert at the bass. Other than his involvement elsewhere at the festival this was the first time I’d seen Pearce play for quite a while. I thoroughly enjoyed his contribution and had kind of forgotten what a fine trumpeter he is.
Nat Adderley’s “Jive Samba” added a hint of Latin exotica based around a one chord vamp and featured solos from Themen, Pearce and Newton.
A lengthy segue of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s blues “Arriving Soon” and the jazz standard “What Is This Thing Called Love” featured the three horns on a “Work Song” style intro that also seemed to reference Miles Davis’ “Milestones”. Barnes, Pearce, Themen on soprano and Newton at the piano all delivered bravura solos to the obvious delight of the crowd. David Masters then took to the stage to announce to great cheers the fact that the festival had been a financial success for the third consecutive year and that Titley Jazz 2013 will take place over the weekend 26/27/28 July.
The sextet’s version of Julian Adderley’s “Wabash” was effectively an encore. Never a prolific writer Adderley borrowed heavily from the 20’s standard “My Honey’s Loving Arms” for the structure of his tune. Solos came from Pearce, Themen and Newton with Cleyndert exhibiting great virtuosity on his bass feature before a parting salvo from Brown at the drums.
I’m pleased to report on another successful Titley Jazz weekend. David Masters got lucky with the weather but the organisation of the festival was spot on with all events running pretty much to time.
My usual reservation about the preponderance of too much material in the head/solos/head format remains, but to be fair Titley doesn’t claim to be cutting edge. Instead it knows its audience and gives them what they want with many visitors returning every year. The programming represents David Masters’ jazz passions but they’re passions that many other people share. Titley is a very welcome addition to the jazz calendar and is also becoming a flagship event for the county of Herefordshire .With David Masters choosing local businesses to supply the festival it’s also a considerable boost to the local economy.
Well done to every body concerned including the Herefordshire CAMRA volunteers manning the beer tent. The quality of the ale was largely excellent with Harviestoun’s Bitter & Twisted my personal festival favourite. There’s probably a cue for a joke in there somewhere.
Let’s hope we’re all back here again in 2013.
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