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Bebop Spoken There

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Mike Papapavlou’s Finals Recital @ Newcastle University. May 16, 2013

Mike Papapavlou (guitar) + accompanists Paul Gowland (tenor saxophone), Ruairidh Patfield (electric bass) & Lewis West (drums)
(Review by Russell)
Summer term is nearing its end. Cramming, late nights, its examinations time! In the  basement of the Music Studios on the main campus of Newcastle University a procession of final year music students were in the spotlight, no, make that under the microscope. At five o'clock jazz guitarist Mike Papapavlou stood on stage awaiting his turn. If he was nervous he didn't let it show. The examiners were delayed…five minutes, then ten. At a quarter past five they arrived, took their seats and it was all eyes (and ears) on Papapavlou. The place was packed. Was this a recital or a gig? If Mike wasn't nervous then some of us in the audience were!
The programme was well chosen and well balanced. The first piece, a Papapavlou composition - Dorios - went well, better than well. The tune incorporated elements of the Dorian mode, the harmonic structure based on minor thirds.  We were willing the genial guitarist to do himself justice. Sharing the stage with him were student friends bassist Ruairidh Patfield and drummer Lewis West. We shouldn’t have worried. The applause told us things were going well. The examinee invited tenor saxophonist Paul Gowland to join him on stage to blow on Half Nelson. Foil or contrast, Gowland gave sterling support to the main man.
The boys in the band were stood down to allow Papapavlou to play solo. Bemsha Swing and When You Wish Upon a Star examined tone and volume control - they could not have been better - and Mike P’s sense of time was spot-on (foot tapping clearly audible). This was Joe Pass and Martin Taylor - bass lines running simultaneously with streams of improvisatory invention…this was Mike Papapavlou! At the conclusion of the Disney song a perceptive listener said: Beautiful! Quite so, sir.
Messrs. Gowland, Patfield and West returned to the stage and the band - and it was a band - nailed it on Coltrane’s Syeeda’s Song Flute. It was at this point that this reviewer forgot this was an examination, this was a gig! Free entry too! The final piece - From Seed to  Bloom -  proved to be a revelation. The guitarist’s helpful notes informed the reader that this was a composition by the Cypriot piano trio Anakreon. Some of us will be seeking out recordings of this trio. The recital at an end, the applause said it all. Mike thanked his band mates; Paul Gowland was an inspired choice for the occasion, drummer Lewis West played a blinder and Ruairidh Patfield’s bass playing was bang-on. It was a privilege to be present on such a triumphant occasion.     
Russell.   

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