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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Leash @ The Jazz Café. June 28

Mark Williams (guitar), Andy Champion (double bass) & Adrian Tilbrook (drums)
(Review by Russell/Photo courtesy of Mike Tilley)
One third Mark Williams Trio, one quarter Full Circle, three fifths ACV. Who would be taking who for a walk? Who’d be let off the leash? Would they be brought to heel? The Jazz Café did good business this Saturday night with those in the know, the curious and the unsuspecting. Most canines were on their best behaviour (save for one unruly bitch yapping incessantly in the corner).
Much of the material was familiar with a couple of originals handed out as treats to the largely well behaved gathering. St Thomas opened the show; with the thoroughbred trio taking a good look at Rollins’ signature number, Williams straining at the leash, ears pricked, slobbering over a pedal board. Bemsha Swing or, if you will, Bensham Swing (for the non-Tyneside resident Bensham is a suburb of Gateshead) let loose Williams in Saltwell Park (Bensham’s splendid Victorian park). With that look in his eye, the man from the Emerald Isle ran amok; he chased pigeons, worried the ducks, trampled across the flowerbeds and ran round and round Saltwell Towers chasing his tail. Woof! Woof! said Andy Champion. Adrian Tilbrook took a chance and let the bassist go charging after the out of sight Williams. Eventually the AWOL pair returned, tails wagging, to Master Tilbrook.
Oscar’s Mood (comp. Williams) once more featured the composer and Champion with a brace of stunning solos. Alfie’s Theme emerged as Champion slowly unfurled the melody. Williams added a trademark dark blues feel, Tilbrook the whipper-in. John Scofield is a constant in Williams’ guitar lexicon and the first set concluded with Stranger to the Light (Tilbrook all over the kit on this one).
A few late arrivals (one looking remarkably sprightly after a day trip to a brewery), a re-shuffle of the prime seats and things were set fair for the second set. The first set started with Sonny Rollins so why not start the second with Wayne Shorter? Yes or No? was the tune, Williams begged for a solo and once again  ran away with it. Champion introduced ‘a little thing’ – Book of Doubts – which, part of a suite, incorporated a blast from the past referencing fusion-era Full Circle. Tilbrook, a FC founding member, went to town on this one and in so doing put the yapping bitch in the doghouse. Cymbals, snare and hi-hat, the temptation to smack a paw on the oh-so-close noisy one must have been oh-so tempting! The audience got it, the doghouse one didn’t, remaining (blissfully?) oblivious. To slightly misquote Ronnie Scott: Are we playing too loudly for you, madam?
Broadway Blues did justice to Ornette Coleman. Big, big solos on this one. Scofield’s ballad Let’s Say We Did held the attention and the Crufts’ contenders went out on Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance. The audience called for more but the Leash trio had no more to give. They retired to the bar for a well-earned drink of water.                   
Russell.

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