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Bebop Spoken There

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13,530 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 948 of them this year alone and, so far, 112 this month (July 31).

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sonny Simmons Quartet @ The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle.

Sonny Simmons (alt/cor anglais), Derek Saw (tpt/valve tmb), John Janosch (gtr/oud), Charlie Collins (dms).
What's this? An oud? A cor anglais? "Cor blimey!" I hear myself mutter.
The room fills up and the Jazz North East gang breath a sigh of relief as extra seats have to be brought in.
On stage, Simmons, born Louisiana raised in Oakland Cal, picks up the cor, Janosch, perhaps Sheffield's number one oudist, places the lute-like instrument across his knee and the severely be-whiskered Collins takes up a southpaw stance behind the double snare-drummed kit.
Saw, trilby clad and looking like a hustler in a Brooklyn pool-room circa 1947, sways rhythmically whilst the others meander musically.
The exercise draws to a close and Simmons says "Yo" to the audience.
I yawn.
Sonny picks up the alto, Derek the trumpet, John the Telecaster and Charlie strokes his plentiful beard.
This is more like it - no more ouding, cor anglais or yawning tonight.
I think back to the early days of Ornette Coleman - "Tomorrow is the Question"
Simmons supplies the answer.
Blistering alto - fuller sound than Ornette - Sonny blows the changes out of the window and Derek does the same - the trumpet may be brass but the timbre is Sheffield Steel and I don't mean stainless. Don Cherry meets Harry James.
Sonny says "Yo".
Enter the ghost of Charlie Parker Past. The Gypsy. Sonny takes Billy Reid's tune on an unaccompanied walk around the block. Discovers some alleyways that even Bird missed. Lyrical, I'm impressed. In the second set he does the same with 'Round Midnight - I'm more impressed.
Sonny says "Yo".
Derek moving to and fro' trumpet to valve trombone - Roswell Rudd meets Roswell New Mexico launching improvised UFOs.
Sonny sings a chorus of It Was a Very Good Year (Yo?) Sinatra meets Tom Waits.
And then it's over. The audience screams for more but Sonny is already dissembling his horn.
Derek says, "When Sonny says it's over - it's over."
I'm not bothered the guys have opened up their skulls, laid bare their soul we've been privileged to see and hear one of the last of the near greats.
Yo Sonny.
Lance.

1 comment :

john moles said...

Interesting review, with which I largely agreed. Saw cuts a very amiable figure on stage and plays a sort of visual compere role which Simmons largely eschews. Chat with Saw in interval revealed that he agreed with proposition that Simmons plays in a jazzier idiom than the British band and regards him as having a beautiful sound and producing sometimes surprising licks and that 'the visiting big American' is what brings in the money for this band. When I suggested possible substitutes such as Arthur Blythe he demurred with 'don't like his sound', but approved Oliver Lake.

As last year, Simmons himself is clearly husbanding energies both on and off stage. Ideally speaking, he needs another horn as fiery and inventive as himself (I don't think Saw is really that) but who can also take the strain when Simmons is resting. There are Americans and Brits who fit the bill (more or less) but presumably economics prevents it.

Especially in ballads, Simmons' sound remains lovely - shades of Ornette, Coltrane, Jacky McLean, Booker Ervin, but with the plangent lyricism which has always been his trademark since the early 60s.

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