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Transatlantic Hot Club with Tara Minton

Transatlantic Hot Club with Tara Minton, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 21/04/2024.

Photography: Photograph of Adrien Chevalier and Tara Minton by Kasia Ociepa

by Ian Mann

April 23, 2024


A highly entertaining evening of music making that bridged geographical and musical boundaries and which included some excellent playing and singing.

Transatlantic Hot Club with Tara Minton, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 21/04/2024.

Ben Creighton-Griffiths – harp, Adrien Chevalier – violin, vocals, Ashley John Long – double bass
with Tara Minton – vocals

Black Mountain Jazz continues to go from strength to strength with yet another full house in attendance for this keenly awaited visit by Transatlantic Hot Club (hereafter THC) and their guest Tara Minton.

THC is the brainchild of Cardiff based harpist Ben Creighton-Griffiths and the French born, New York based violinist and vocalist Adrien Chevalier. The line up is completed by double bass virtuoso Ashley John Long, another musician based in Cardiff.

Creighton-Griffiths and Long are both BMJ favourites who have visited the Club on many occasions, whether for regular Club events or as part of the annual Wall2Wall Jazz Festival.

Creighton-Griffiths has appeared twice as a solo harpist and also as the leader of his ‘electro-fusion’ trio Chube, featuring Aeddan Williams on electric bass and Matt Williams at the drums and with Creighton-Griffiths ‘treating’ the sound of his harp via a range of effects pedals and other electronic devices. The Chube trio played a successful BMJ Club night in March 2019 and followed this with an even more remarkable performance later in the year when they collaborated with trombonist Dennis Rollins at the Wall2Wall Jazz Festival. All of these performances have been reviewed elsewhere on this site.

Long has performed at BMJ as a sideman with a wide variety of different artists, including a number of appearances as a regular member of bands led by another Club favourite, pianist and composer Dave Jones.

Creighton-Griffiths and Chevalier first met in 2013 when Creighton-Griffiths was performing at  ‘Journées de la Harpe’, a harp festival that takes place in the French Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guyane, Guadeloupe, St Anne, and St Lucia. Both musicians come from musical families and Chevalier’s mother was part of the orchestra accompanying the harpists. She introduced Creighton-Griffiths to her son, who was of a similar age to the young harpist.

Creighton-Griffiths and Chevalier soon developed a strong musical rapport and an equally firm friendship. In 2014 they began an annual tradition of performing together in Cardiff and adopted the Transatlantic Hot Club name in 2019 as they began to tour more widely.

Creighton-Griffiths and Chevalier represent the core of the ensemble but the ranks of the Transatlantic Hot Club have also included   Franck Billot (clarinet), Linus Wyrsch (clarinet) Tatiana Eva-Marie (vocals),  Roberto Gervasi (accordion) and Sara Labriola (guitar).  A whole string of players have filled the bass chair, namely Don Sweeney, Matheus Prado, Philip Ambuel, Julian Smith, Aeddan Williams and currently Ashley John Long.

In 2020 a version of Transatlantic Hot Club featuring its co-leaders alongside Ambuel, Wyrsch and Labriola performed a special online show as part of that year’s ‘Virtual’ Brecon Jazz Festival. Creighton-Griffiths was recorded at his home in Cardiff, playing with four musicians recorded at their individual residencies in New York.

It all cohered remarkably well  and paved the way for an excellent live performance from the trio of Creighton-Griffiths, Chevalier and Long at Brecon Jazz Club in April 2022. Review here;

April is evidently the month that Chevalier chooses for his visits to the UK and two years on from that Brecon appearance THC were at Abergavenny with another new line up. The trio’s guest, Tara Minton, is an Australian musician now based in the UK. Born in Melbourne she is a harpist, vocalist and songwriter with two albums of original material to her credit, “Tides of Love” (2017) and “Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid” (2020). She has also released the album “Two For The Road”  (2022), which sees her co-leading a quartet with bassist Ed Babar in a programme that explores a mix of jazz standards and original material.

It was Minton’s work as a harpist that first brought her into the orbit of Creighton-Griffiths and THC, but she has also established an impressive reputation for her work as a jazz vocalist and it was exclusively in this role that she appeared tonight.

Both sets commenced with the sounds of the core trio. Sharply suited and booted Creighton-Griffiths, Chevalier and Long kicked things off in true Hot Club style with a lively rendition of Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz classic “Swing 42”. This quickly established the three musicians as virtuoso soloists, with Chevalier playing pizzicato violin behind Creighton-Griffiths’ harp solo. It was totally appropriate that the trio should be playing in front of the “Europe” panel from BMJ’s mobile “Jazz Through The Ages” exhibition, with Reinhardt the pictured artist.

Also from the Reinhardt canon “Minor Swing” offered further opportunities for the three musicians to demonstrate their instrumental prowess. Long is very much an equal member of the trio and is a phenomenally talented double bass soloist, as BMJ regulars are readily aware. He’s a musician who is quite deservedly beginning to acquire a national reputation, despite not being based in London.

The jazz standard “September In The Rain” saw Chevalier also featuring as a vocalist, singing in English but with a distinct French accent. He augmented this with a typically fluent violin solo. At other moments the group was pared down to a duo with Creighton-Griffiths’ harp solo accompanied by Long’s double bass only, the bassist subsequently taking over with his own feature.

Chevalier is involved with a number of other projects and has also recorded as a solo artist. “Blue Drag”, a Joseph Myrow tune that was recorded by Django Reinhardt, appears on Chevalier’s 2023 solo album “Greenpoint Blues” and here represented a showcase for his violin playing. Blues inflections informed his two solo excursions, these punctuated by features for both Creighton-Griffiths and Long.

Creighton-Griffiths had been handling the announcements and now welcomed Minton to the stage. Also dressed to impress she provided a wordless vocal introduction to Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” before singing the lyrics, at first with the accompaniment of harp and double bass only. Chevalier then added violin, skilfully shadowing Minton’s vocal lines. Creighton-Griffiths and Chevalier then contributed instrumental solos before Minton reprised the lyrics.

Minton sang convincingly in French on “C’est si Bon”, with Chevalier providing answering / backing vocals off mic. Minton also impressed with a scat vocal episode that totally transcended any linguistic considerations. Meanwhile Chevalier and Creighton-Griffiths provided the instrumental solos.

The international theme continued with Minton singing equally convincingly in Spanish on a sensuous, slowed down arrangement of “Besame Mucho”, written in 1932 by the  Mexican songwriter  Consuelo Velázquez. Minton’s flirtatious vocal was augmented by Chevalier’s violin solo.

The first set concluded with the Duke Ellington classic “It Don’t Mean That Thing”, a real crowd pleaser to take the performance into the break. Introduced by the sounds of voice and double bass only the song included a scat vocal episode from Minton plus instrumental solos from Chevalier, Creighton-Griffiths and Long. A reprise of the lyrics also featured Chevalier on backing vocals.

The second set was to follow a similar course to the first with the instrumentalists emerging first and again performing four tunes before they invited Minton back to the stage.

They began with a violin led gypsy jazz arrangement of Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose”, with solos also coming from Creighton-Griffiths on harp and Long on double bass.

Next came a tune that has become something of a modern gypsy jazz standard. Written much later than most of the material in the gypsy jazz canon “For Saphora” was composed by the great gypsy jazz guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg, the man regarded by many as the most significant gypsy jazz musician since Django Reinhardt. An extended unaccompanied harp intro saw Creighton-Griffiths given full rein to express his remarkable creativity on the instrument. He later stretched out even further in the company of his colleagues, with Chevalier and Long later contributing solo statements of their own.

The international theme of the evening continued with a ballad, whose title, translated from German, was “With You It Was So Very…”.  A second unaccompanied harp intro was the gateway to a beautiful group performance centred around the combination of harp and double bass, with Long briefly deploying the bow before the close.

THC recently undertook a short tour of Corsica in the company of accordionist Jeremy Lohier. One of the pieces performed on that tour was “Made in France”, written by guitarist Bireli Lagrene. This represented the final instrumental tune and included solos from Creighton-Griffitths, Chevalier and Long. A great way to round off this part of the programme.

Minton returned to add her voice to an interesting arrangement of the jazz standard “All he Things You Are”, augmenting the lyrics with a scat vocal episode as she shared the limelight with instrumental solos from Chevalier and Creighton-Griffiths, the latter complemented by the undertow of Long’s bass.

The Luis Bonfa song “Manhã de Carnaval” (aka “Black Orpheus”) continued the musical world tour with a stop off in Brazil, but featured Minton singing the English language lyric. Instrumental solos came from Chevalier, Creighton-Griffiths and Long, with the latter briefly flourishing the bow at the close of the song.

A playful rendition of the Jimmy McHugh song “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” saw Minton updating the lyrics with a reference to Elon Musk, her vivacious singing complemented by solos from Creighton-Griffiths and Chevalier.

The set ended with the ever adaptable Juan Tizol / Duke Ellington composition “Caravan”. Another intriguing arrangement saw the song introduced by a combination of harp and bowed bass with violin and voice subsequently added. Minton’s singing of Irving Mills’ evocative lyrics was followed by instrumental solos from Chevalier, Creighton-Griffiths and Long, with the bassist now playing pizzicato.

A rapturous reception from a full house ensured that the band needed no persuasion to remain on stage for an encore. Minton, a witty and engaging stage presence had been handling the announcements during the time she was on stage. She now encouraged the crowd to sing along with “L-O-V-E.”, which they did readily. In between the audience participation sections we also enjoyed a final scat vocal episode from Minton plus instrumental solos from Chevalier and Creighton-Griffiths.

This was another hugely successful evening for Black Mountain Jazz as THC and their guest delivered a highly entertaining evening of music making that included some excellent playing and singing.

I’d seen all of the instrumentalists before of course but this was my first introduction to Minton. I have to say that I was very much impressed by her performance as a jazz vocalist, a role that she could easily choose as her main focus should she so desire. But there’s obviously a lot more to Minton than ‘just a jazz singer’. She’s evidently a talented multi-instrumentalist (research has revealed that she plays harp and piano) and also a songwriter and composer. I’m not familiar with her solo work but after enjoying tonight’s performance I’d be keen to investigate it. Tara Minton made a lot of new friends tonight and it would come as no surprise to see her invited back to BMJ as the leader of her own project.

Ben and Ashley are both great friends of the Club, so I’m sure they’ll both be back sometime too.

Featuring music and musicians from different parts of the globe in a performance that bridged geographical and musical boundaries this was a great night all round.



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