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Bebop Spoken There

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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Virtuoso Jazz Trio @ The Lit and Phil

George MacDonald (clarinet); James Birkett (guitar); Tony Abell (bass); Bernice MacDonald (vocal).
(Review by Lance.)
The clarinet is the purest toned of all instruments and, arguably, the most difficult of the single reed instruments. No other wind instrument can be played with such clarity. Admittedly there have been many maverick clarinettists to whom clarity and purity of tone were low down in their priorities - Pee Wee Russell, Archie Semple, Jimmy Giuffre, local hero the late Stan Martin were some - and they all hold their own individual place in jazz history. However, and here I'm being subjective, the true masters of the instrument were, Buster Bailey, Barney Bigard, Artie Shaw, Buddy de Franco, Eddie Daniels and, of course, Benny Goodman.
George MacDonald, a former principal clarinettist of the Northern Sinfonia, has absorbed many of the above influences and I well remember the delight he showed when, some years ago, I broke the news to him that Buddy de Franco was to appear at Caedmon Hall, Gateshead.
George was there that night. 
Tonight, on the eve of the clarinettist's 81st birthday, celebrated vocally Canadian style, his fluency and the control of his instrument showed no sign of flagging and those of us who made our way to the Lit and Phil were treated to an evening of pure magic.
Listening to such standards as Ain't Misbehavin'; After you've Gone; In Mellow tone; Airmail Special; My Blue Heaven; Someone to Watch Over Me; Flying Home; One Note Samba; Margie; I Got Rhythm; Skylark; Sweet Georgia Brown and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square - each one given an interesting and often humourous introduction by George made one understand why jazz had never been more popular with the general public than it was during the Swing Era - particularly when played by Benny Goodman or, as it was tonight, by George MacDonald.
Not that George was the only swinger on stage. James Birkett laid down markers for every guitarist to aspire to. Chordal à la Kress, single string à la Charlie Christian or just plain and, not so simple, Birkett.
Tony Abell is a relatively laid back bassist but every note counted whether in solo or support. He wears the mantle vacated by Pete Stuart well.
Oh yes, and then there was Bernice! I haven't come across many girls these days who can sing in front of a band, however small, unamplified and still be heard! In fact the acoustic sound probably worked to her advantage on Gilberto numbers such as Telephone Song and Ipanema creating that delicate Astrid G feel that may have been lost if she'd been miked up.
Who knows? The girl sounded great and so did the band.
She looked good too
Lance.

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