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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jazz North East & Splinter @ the Bridge present: Engine Room Favourites

Martin Archer & Mick Beck (reeds); Graham Clark (violin); Corey Mwamba (vibes); Laura Cole (keyboards); Seth Bennett (bass); Steve Dinsdale (retired hurt), Peter Fairclough, Johnny Hunter, Walt Shaw (percussion). Star Rating *****
 (Review by Steve H./Photo courtesy of Ken Drew.)
When I first heard about this Decatet playing at the Splinter gig I was concerned that the band members might outnumber the audience. I needn’t have worried one of the percussionists (Steve Dinsdale) had to drop out (eaten on the way up according Martin Archer) so now reduced to a nontet the numbers were once again in favour of the audience. As it happens a more than reasonable sized crowd were treated to a memorable gig. Those risk adverse jazz fans who stayed away missed out on one of the most enjoyable and creative gigs of the year.  
Band leader Archer appears to be a musical cross between Clive Anderson and Alan Carr. In addition to his  multi reed playing he composed, cajoled, conducted, cavorted and chanted  throughout the evening.
The ensemble kicked off with  Junko Heart Bad Time from Slackwater  described by Archer as a medley of everything we have ever played and what a joy it was too - vibrant, flamboyant and featuring plenty of melodies for those who like to have a tune with their jazz.  
Although everyone in the Nontet made an outstanding contribution a special mention has to go to Watt Shaw on percussion who made up for the absence of Steve Dinsdale with an octopus like performance of animated percussion . The first set concluded with Satin Lantern a short piece introduced by Archer as  a ‘Salsa’; members of the audience were invited to dance with the band leader but sadly no one took him up on his offer.
After the interval the band performed  its most complex piece You Will Never Know me which was conceived in 3 separate units, the first Section comprising  bass, piano and vibes, the second reeds and violin and the third percussion. The piece felt almost Classical in a Bartokian way and it would be unfair to single out any performer such was the sheer class of all involved.   At the piece’s conclusion Archer suggested that it could have been renamed We will never know it! The evening concluded with a cover of ‘Hard Blues’ which  was simply magnificent – upbeat, uptempo, uplifting and  a duet between Archer on Soprano and Mwamba on vibes was absolutely mesmerising. A wonderfully entertained  audience snaked its way down the Bridge staircase and onto Castle Garth still buzzing  with excitement and admiration for what they had just experienced.
Steve H.

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