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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday May 25. Schmazz @ the Cluny JONATHAN BRATOËFF QUARTET

Jonathan Bratoëff (guitar); Mark Hanslip (saxophones); Tom Mason (bass); James Maddren (drums).
I took a German mate of mine, fresh in from Koeln along to the Cluny knowing that the choice of beer would impress him for starters. Well, so did the Potato & Ham soup and the Salmon fishcakes, but not for starters - it all arrived together so we ate it as a banquet along with my Steak in Wine (allegedly) pie; very good value and tasty actually washed down with Tyneside Brown & Harviestown Bitter & Twisted. We kept a close eye on the Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet who were dining there too with Paul B; in fact Jonathan was impressively selling the gig to everyone in the bar - it's really good to see a bit of unashamed artistic self-promotion - not that I'd know!
It was also good to have a chat with Mark Hanslip (sax) again after his lyrical appearance last July with Tom Mix at The Side (Tony Marsh drums & Ollie Brice d.bass) - see Bebop Spoken Here archive; he told me The Side was the best gig they did on that tour but he wasn't sure if Tony Marsh was in fact named after Tom Mix's Wonder Horse! Two reasons to linger 'til 9 when the band kicked off in the depths of Cluny 2 in front of a canny turnout for a Tuesday night.
It's always a good sign when the band's choice of ambient music fits your personal taste so, as the strains of Bill Frisell faded and Jonathan opened up the first set with some haunting Frisell/Metheney-esque chord work I knew this was gonna be a good'n.
They made it look easy actually as James Maddren looked skywards into a parallel ether for inspiration seeming to be whispering and knocking at heaven's door. Simultaneously, his telepathic partnership with Tom Mason's bass line providing an elegant celestial craft which Jonathan and Mark simply sailed away on. There was such well-composed and self-assured contrast both within and between the pieces, it felt like you were having an amusing yet animated conversation with a rare character in a Murakami novel and those drums - as Paul B says in Jazz Alert of James Maddren "..a rising star.." - he's not joking: the bloke in front wondered if there was an earthquake coming as my knees and feet went into overdrive - always a good sign!
Jonathan took a welcome opportunity to talk about his compositional ideas modestly leaving lots of room for personal interpretation - now we know that he likes the idea of his pieces being framed, "You know", he shrugs in a French way, "we (the band) are painting a picture so we sort of frame it" - someone shouts out, "You've been framed!" deftly breaking the philosophical crystal. We were also treated to a new piece - last of the first set - called Fallen Colossus, which gave Jonathan a chance to tell us of his travels in Egypt making us feel guilty for having stayed at The Luxor Sheraton but referring us to the super-megalomania of Rameses II whose now horizontal, 70m statue was the inspiration for this piece. Anyway it was very good but unfortunately at this point we had to make our apologies and take off, so I hope maybe Paul or the bloke who shouted "You've been framed" might be able to fill in some appreciation of the 2nd set in the 'Comments' section?
My mate Albert - who said the Germans have no sense of humour - pointed out that Jonathan's surname was Alsatian for fried egg - now who's broken the philosophical crystal!
George Milburn.

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