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Monday, September 21, 2015

Bradley Johnston Quartet @ The Black Bull, Blaydon. September 20

Bradley Johnston (guitar), Peter Gilligan (piano), Paul Grainger (double bass) & Tim Johnston (drums)
(Review by Russell/Photos courtesy of Roly Veitch - click for more)
Blaydon Jazz Club’s thirty two year history has hosted m
any of the best jazz musicians around – regional, national and international. Working on a shoe string budget, hoping audiences will materialise from one gig to the next, it’s largely a thankless task. On an occasion such as last night at the Black Bull there was a feeling that it was worthwhile, more than worthwhile.
Bradley Johnston, twenty-teen, or thereabouts, led his own band on an engagement at a club venue he has got to know well, a place where the regulars have got to know him. A quiet, shy young man, Johnston plays jazz guitar. He’s had a guest spot or two playing a full part in his guitar duo partnership with mentor James Birkett. Now he’s out there, his own man, calling the tunes. 
Johnston opened each set with a solo acoustic guitar piece. A Norah Jones’ number – Don’t Know Why – held the audience rapt. Johnston invited Peter Gilligan to join him on Bill Evans’ Time Remembered. Double bassist Paul Grainger and Tim Johnston (drums) stepped onto the dimly lit stage to form the quartet in time to play Johnston’s Pat’s Waltz. A varied programme included Steve Swallow and Ellington. In a Sentimental Mood was a first set highlight; fine, sensitive playing, Tim Johnston working the gig almost exclusively with brushes, Gilligan commendably restrained, Grainger the imperturbable figure at the back. Michel Petrucciani’s Looking Up brought the first set to a close with the (no relation) Johnstons in the spotlight – Bradley with a marvelous solo, Tim taking it out in spirited fashion.
Blaydon Jazz Club’s tireless promoter Roly Veitch made the usual parish announcements and took time to think out loud, with no little wonderment, at Bradley’s meteoric rise. An old friend of Veitch, Dr James Birkett, similarly took time to address the audience. Tutor, fellow musician, friend to Bradley, Birkett spoke warmly of his young charge. It kind of makes it all worthwhile.
Second set. A guitar/double bass feature for Johnston and Paul Grainger. Charlie Haden’s Our Spanish Love Song made connections. The recently deceased acclaimed bassist could surely count Grainger as an admirer. Haden’s enduring working relationship with revered guitarist Pat Metheny certainly didn’t get past Johnston, the American superstar a major influence. A varied pad included All the Things You Are. Great stuff, as simple as that.
An indication of Johnston’s maturity followed; having addressed the audience throughout the evening, introducing each tune, looking around the room as he did so, he took time to talk about his development as a young guitarist and the life changing experience of being introduced to jazz by Dr Birkett, then embracing it. A wonderful moment. Johnston then did the only thing he could do – he played James’ Waltz!
There Will Never be Another You, brisk, a round of fours, excellent. A Metheny groover had Pete Gilligan firing on all cylinders and Mr Dependable, Paul Grainger, didn’t blink.
A killer Scrapple from the Apple closed the night; Johnston tore it up, Gilligan too with dynamic rhythmic support from Main Man Johnston. Thirty two years at Blaydon, eh? Here’s to the next thirty two!
Next month, one week later than usual – Sunday October 25 – features the man Vasi X. Mr Xenopoulos is simply one of the great tenor players of his generation. If you’re yet to hear him, this is your chance. Bus (convenient buses to/from Gateshead and Newcastle), car, walk, private helicopter – whatever your mode of transport, be there. Vasilis will be working with a dream team; long time friend Paul Edis, playing piano, the incomparable Andy Champion will frighten every bass player for miles around and brilliant drummer Russ Morgan is the man to hear. If you require more information about how to get to the Black Bull contact Bebop Spoken Here. Prediction: Gig of the Year.      
Russell.        

1 comment :

Jazz Coop (on F/b) said...

If you missed Bradley's fantastic quartet at Blaydon - or you want to see them again - come & see them play for the Jazz.Coop at The Globe this Saturday!!

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