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Saturday, February 06, 2010

(Even) Better Than the Bridge! PAUL EDIS SEXTET – Jazz in the café at the Queen’s Hall Hexham. Friday Feb. 5

PAUL EDIS piano, ADAM SINCLAIR drums, PAUL SUSANS bass, GRAEME WILSON sax, GRAHAM HARDY trumpet/flugel, CHRIS HIBBARD trombone. My first time at this venue: it will not be the last – I commend it to you. “In the sticks”, yes, but, at 25 minutes drive from Chester-le-Street, hardly an odyssey!
With 50 – 60 people, plus musicians and staff it was standing-room only by 8.00 last night so be early if you want a table.
A full-house made for a good atmosphere – a kind of cross between Blaydon and The Cherry Tree. People clearly like to eat as part of the package and most were finishing eating at 7.30, when we arrived. It looked good – more cottage supper than haute cuisine but it required wifely restraint to keep me from trying the corned-beef pie, served in wedges you could chock a 147 with!
Friendly staff and good ales (Allendale beers in bottle) completed the picture. As I was driving, the ale, too, was off-limits. Shame! At 8.00, the lights dimmed and “Out of Nowhere” the band launched into exactly that and the applause which greeted solos by Graeme, Graham and Paul, showed that the audience know, and like, their jazz. “Ah,Um”, a Mingus-inspired original introduced a more baleful note and showcased Chris Hibbard on trombone as well as giving Adam and Paul Susans some space in the “fours”.
This was followed by Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” which, with a slow, mellow flugelhorn solo, lived up to the title. In contrast, “Black Orpheus” with trombone again to the fore (how expressive an instrument in the right hands!) built up in rhythm and volume to something akin to carnival firecrackers. They closed the set (where can you go after firecrackers?) with some “kamikaze jazz” (also used at the Bridge) – Graeme Wilson’s “Up Late”, with stomping crescendos and a clever finish: a musical exclamation mark! Again, as at the Bridge, the second set opened with “All the things you are(n’t)”, complete with fugue intro: a case of “Welcome Bach?” An aberrant mobile phone added a novel “obligato” at the end of the piece but the audience seemed to love it all.
Also very well received was Paul’s “suite” in four parts which, when premiered at the Bridge, was so fresh as to be still untitled – a defect which has now been remedied. Inspired by post pantomime stress disorder it is now fittingly entitled “It’s behind You!” – which title, apparently, was suggested by Adam Sinclair. And very good it was – even better than at the Bridge, the first and the last bass notes sandwiching 26 minutes (yes, I timed it) of varied moods and virtuoso playing.
The second and third sections (waltz and ballad?) best illustrate the variety with “Favourite Things” from the “Sound of Music” popping into my mind at times in the waltz, while the ballad took me back to Ellington’s mood from the first set. “Angular” featured more excellent solos most notably from Graham Hardy on trumpet and finished the night with upbeat humour sending the audience home happy. A special mention for Paul Susans (deputising at short notice for Mick Shoulder) who contributed much to the solid rhythm section as well as some solos and a key part in the suite. A really enjoyable gig: I would go back for more of the sextet and (given a lift) some pie, beer and Hexham hospitality!
Jerry Edis.

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