(Review by Steve T)
The venue is a backroom in a bar, just like many backrooms in many bars across the country; In the summer, we went to another one just like it in Sheffield to see a Zappa tribute band.
But this backroom in this bar is the site of the 2018 Parliamentary Jazz Awards venue of the year, and we at Bebop Spoken Here know a thing or two about the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, or at least we know a man who does.
Jazz at the Lescar is the brainchild of Jez Matthews, who's all over this night and I've no doubt the charisma and enthusiasm he exudes wouldn't have gone unnoticed by our Right Honourable jazz friends who hand out the awards. His hospitality is of the above and beyond variety too.
It was two bands on a weekly Wednesday night playing to an enthusiastic crowd of just under forty: young and old, men and women. With myself down to a single arm, (and not my drinking or driving arm), a son at University in Sheffield with the inevitable freshers’ flu, and a long-suffering Mrs. T with a long drive home and work the next day, it was agreed beforehand we'd only do the first band.
The Josh Schofield Quartet are Birmingham Conservatoire alumni and I'd received a tip-off they're kick-ass hot, or something to that effect, in a twenty-year-old's jazz parlance. My informant proved a reliable source.
The band operates In The Year of Coltrane (AC), suits and no ties all around a great look for this type of stuff. A bold opening that I'd never have guessed was Strayhorn, with sax then piano, nothing much by way of recurring melody, expertly delivered fours closing things to rapturous applause and some serious whooping, not least from our host.
A slow piano introduced an original in need of a name (sounds like a song title), before it became a pacey group piece, which presently crashed into a bass-led further change in tempo, and a tastefully understated solo before drums took it out.
A Trane piece was followed by one from Shorter - the man some called 'young John Coltrane' before he came out from under the shadow as a jazz giant in his own right - just in case anybody hadn't yet guessed where this band is coming from.
A drum intro went into another head. I've no idea if or when I've heard it before and I love it when that happens, the bass player getting funky with his upright, keeping things fresh and varied.
The pace was upped again for a barnstorming final piece, the piano, following his solo with some impressionistic playing behind the sax before it, in turn, morphed into something almost, but not quite Impressions. Either I'm missing something (which is perfectly possible) or this was something extremely clever and complex, delivered with subtlety, ambition and a perfectly judged level of reverence. Extraordinary.
With an exciting programme, anybody with a forthcoming mid-week excursion to the Sheffield area is sorted, and I'd love to see the Josh Schofield quartet again, somewhere in the North East perhaps.Steve T.