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Bebop Spoken There

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

“TIMEO DANAOS ET DONA FERENTES”? Vasilis Xenopoulos - The Wind Machine @ St. Cuthbert's Centre, Crook April 25

Vasilis Xenopoulos (ten); Martin Shaw  (tpt/flg); Paul Edis (pno); Andy Champion (bs); Matt Home (dms). 
(Review and photos by Jerry).
If Virgil had been at Crook last night, he’d have hated the rat-grey, mizzly weather but he’d never have penned that line about fearing the Greeks even when bearing gifts! Aided by two “local heroes” (his words, not mine) and by two top-class London-based colleagues, Vasilis brought his considerable gifts (and chirpy, Mediterranean charm) and took Crook by storm, not by stealth.
As at the Bridge, last night, they stormed through Four Brothers and Splanky on which I fully understood Lance’s comment about the BIG sound generated by these five splendid musicians. Altogether more gentle on the senses, Tin Tin Deo brought mesmerising Latin rhythms and a tasty flugelhorn solo (accompanied by tempting smells from the kitchen of pizza cooking for the interval!).
“Ballad Medleys”, one in each half, demonstrated that these guys could do subtle and seductive as well as storming. We had Bewitched, My One and Only Love (first set) then Prelude to a Kiss and Sophisticated Lady (second set). Bewitched we were! Subtlety and great harmonies too on Dizzy Gillespie’s ground-breaking bebop / Latin mix, Con Alma, (correctly translated by Vas as “With Soul”).
“That’s his best” was my comment after each player’s solo – until the next one! They just seemed to get better and better as the evening progressed and there was so much dazzling technique for this “jazznoramus” to watch, listen to and wonder at. On Our Delight, for example Shaw’s muted trumpet, almost swallowing the microphone, produced amazing low notes which had me looking to see if some other instrument had arrived onstage unannounced! He and Vas closed Brookmeyer’s Fun Club with a quiet (improvised?) duet – a kind of horn-duel – the like of which I have not previously heard. Magical! It was great, too, to see drumming up close – so often the drummer is hidden away at the back – and to register the variety of techniques deployed by Matt Home from thunderous solos to the softest of brushing. As for the “local heroes”, if pressed to nominate a “best” solo, I’d plump for Paul’s on Short Story and Andy’s on Fun Club.
I’ve not mentioned, so far, The Groove Merchant which closed the first set, Corner Pocket, which punched holes in the second and the powerful (“frenetic” in a good way) Wind Machine which rounded off the evening. So there you have it: a fairly brief review for an epic gig…
Thanks, as ever, to all at Crook for the candles, nibbles, pizzas and genuine warmth which makes this a great place to be, even on a foul night.
Jerry

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