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Sunday, May 26, 2013

James Birkett & Bradley Johnston @ Sage Gateshead. 24 May 24, 2013

James Birkett & Bradley Johnston (Gtrs)
 (Review by Russell).
They were there in their hundreds, in every nook and cranny, every vantage point taken. Guitarists James Birkett and Bradley Johnston had certainly pulled a crowd for their gig on the concourse at Sage Gateshead. Alas, the drinking and chattering gave the game away...the hordes were there to attend performances in Halls One and Two. Most didn't listen and many of those seemed oblivious to the brilliance of the master and pupil duo. 
Two sets of bossas, waltzes, swingers and blues held the attention of the few. Dick McDonough and Carl Kress made a flying visit (Stage Fright), John Lewis waltzed in Skating in Central Park, so too Dave Brubeck (In Your Own Sweet Way). The clattering of plates, the clink of glass on glass, the I'm at the Sage mobile types did little to dampen the enthusiasm of performers and the listening few.
Pupil Bradley Johnston - Mr Johnston turned eighteen last week - played as if a veteran of the music; rhythm, time, solo invention. Dr Birkett played the part of the senior man in the partnership, confident of his partner's abilities, indeed the younger man frequently took the first solo. 
Jobim's Wave opened the second set just as the few waved goodbye to ticket holders filing into their respective halls. Joe Venuti (Johnston) and Eddie Lang (Birkett) arrived Stringing the Blues (Joe/Bradley swinging it, Eddie/James knocking out sophisticated bass lines). Time for Django - the place had quietened - time for Nuages. Great! Bill Evans contributed Waltz for Debby then it was Guitar Hero Time. Mr P.Metheny's Farmer's Trust impressed Birkett and Johnston as much as the listeners! McDonough and Kress returned briefly with Chicken a La Swing, an hors d'oeuvres to Billie's Bounce. Johnston really got into this one, a highlight of the evening. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better the duo signed off in some style with Chick Corea's Spain. James Birkett is an acknowledged virtuoso, Bradley Johnston's time will surely come.           
Russell.   

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