This gig was in the upper room of Newcastle's Bridge Hotel, on the small raised stage on which I’ve occasionally sung an unaccompanied folksong at the Monday folkclub. Forget my warblings – this gig was something else entirely.
The band played a storming set to a full house of fans of all ages. It was great from the word go, but no words were spoken at first, simply Claude looking cool in shades, black beret and red shirt, starting with a strong evocative sax, and the rest of the band murmuring instrumentally behind him.
It’s difficult to describe a gig such as this, you really have to be there (Why weren’t you, you other people?) because the pieces were all original compositions with intriguing titles such as I Have Nothing to Say to You and Things I Can Not Express, and other titles which we couldn’t hear properly because of the enthusiastic applause.
There were generous amounts of hard fast playing, alternating with slow soulful sax and guitar. The solos were frequent and intriguing. I’ve never before seen a drummer who smiles so much, both at the other musicians and at the drums themselves. Always a good sign when a player smiles at his instrument. The guitarist was wonderfully creative and at one point sounded as if he was playing underwater, to approving nods from Claude. I’d liked to have heard more solos from the bass, partly because of his superb surname of Blackadder, but I’m told he’s a modest soul. The band was not afraid to play as a trio on some numbers, minus guitar, then minus drums, which added interest.
Claude’s sax featured brilliantly. I suspect he was doing things which were impossible, producing a deep breathy sound, then shimmering silver slivers of sound, with beautiful lyrical riffs in between. (Are they called riffs in jazz or is that just rock, you can tell I’m a novice at writing about jazz?). One item had Claude paying quick snatches of tune, with responding calls from the band, exciting stuff. The gig ended with Claude asking the punters what was wanted for an encore, a ‘Ballad or some hardcore’. We opted for hardcore to send us home happy for the rest of the holiday weekend!