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Friday, March 27, 2015

James Birkett & Bradley Johnston @ The Lit & Phil. March 27

James Birkett (guitar) & Bradley Johnston (guitar)
(Review by Russell)
Another monthly lunchtime gig at the Lit & Phil. In no time all seats were taken with extra chairs hurriedly set-out to meet demand. It was a special occasion – it being the low key launch of James Birkett and Bradley Johnston’s CD Together. A partnership of equals – Birkett the vastly experienced musician, Johnston the supremely talented young musician making his way in the music world.
Ten tunes in the one hour programme and near enough as many guitarists. Birkett and Johnston, then the influential, and the numerous references; Django Reinhardt, Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang Pat Metheny. Jobim’s Wave a nice way to relax into the concert. Birkett’s Blues for BJ (who could that be?). Waltz time with John Lewis’ Skating in Central Park, then the first ‘role play’ of the afternoon: B. Johnston as Joe Venuti and J. Birkett as Eddie Lang. Mr Venuti took the spotlight. Stringing the Blues fizzed, two top guitarists firing on all cylinders. A mutual appreciation of Pat Metheny ensured a P. Metheny composition would find a place in the programme and on this occasion an exceptionally laid back take on Farmer’s Trust.
Messrs Birkett and Johnston can play anything, the most difficult of tunes, nothing is beyond them. Yet the idea of combing Rollins’ Oleo and Bird’s Anthropology did put them to the test (no safety net). It was high wire stuff and they didn’t fall off. Simply amazing!  Nuages is seemingly a fixture in the duo’s set. If BJ has learned one thing from JB (there must be many things), it is to take his time on such a tune, the volume levels carefully set (this is a noticeable feature in Johnston’s regular participation in the Jazz Café’s superb jam sessions).
As if the guitar duo hadn’t dazzled the crowd, they went out on Chick Corea’s Spain. Always, always tremendous. Birkett knows how to do it, now, so does Johnston. Two great guitarists, one great gig. They’re gigging regularly across the north east. Catch them soon. Check Bebop Spoken Here soon for a review of James Birkett and Bradley Johnston’s CD Together.
Russell.
The next concert in the lunchtime series is on Friday 24 April at one o’clock featuring Paul Edis (piano) and Graham Hardy (trumpet and flugelhorn).                               

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