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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Ray Johnson & Tom Lapworth @ The Jazz Café – October 31

Ray Johnson (trumpet & flugelhorn) & Tom Lapworth (guitar)
(Review by Russell/Photo courtesy of Mike Tilley)
Last night’s Halloween goings-on around town had to be seen to be believed. Ghouls galore, full costume, face paint, the works. Big business types must be cackling all the way to the bank on their broomsticks. The Jazz Café would offer sanctuary. Horror of horrors! A zombie – full costume, face paint – had taken over the bar. The nightmare never ending, the night of the living dead. Meanwhile…
On occasion a jam session or workshop forges a musical alliance. Over the years Dave Weisser’s weekly meeting at the Chillingham has introduced musicians to one another. Ray Johnson and Tom Lapworth met at one of those Wednesday night sessions at the Chilli. Modern jazz standards the common bond, they expressed a wish to perhaps do something, some time. The Jazz Café’s Saturday evening duo sessions seemed like the ideal platform to get together and play a few tunes.
With Johnson living out in the wilds of Northumberland and Lapworth having recently relocated to Leeds, rehearsals were at a premium. Skype offered a ‘next best’ solution. The wonders of technology!  A set list agreed, they would meet at the Caff.
Black Nile, Stolen Moments, Just Friends. Solid material. Lapworth, the junior partner, had been in the woodshed, Johnson had played the dots countless times and alternated between trumpet and flugelhorn. If there were any nerves on the stand it appeared they were with Johnson. By no means reserved, but perhaps, a tad tentative to begin with. In contrast, Lapworth, playing his recently acquired Telecaster, dipped into his copy of ‘A thousand and one chords before breakfast’. Tom Harrell’s sensitive Moon Alley heard a more relaxed Johnson on flugel, the senior man beginning to express himself. Afro Blue confirmed the view that the duo felt more settled. Johnson thought Autumn Leaves was appropriate at this time of year, introducing the number with trumpet muted.
An interval chat with a sage judge on matters jazz suggested Lapworth’s Telecaster was, perhaps, not the best choice of instrument for an up-close selection of standards. Strings and brass can be an exposed duo combination – there is nowhere to hide. To some ears – your BSH correspondent’s – the format and choice of instrument made close listening a rewarding experience. Guitar accompaniment with a plethora of chord changes feeding solo brass excursions succeeded in keeping things ‘on the edge.’ Hats off (witches hats included) to Johnson and Lapworth.
Tadd’s Ladybird, Sting’s Fragile and Miles’ Four set the second set on its way, perhaps at times a little hurried, but good stuff nonetheless. The Preacher hit the heights. Great intro from Lapworth, the blues feel picked up by Johnson. The duo continued to up their game on Stanley Turrentine’s Sugar and topped the lot with ACJ’s How Insensitive. This was sensitive; Lapworth’s chords – one of them a seemingly impossible stretch – and an excellent flugel solo from Johnson. The Jazz Café’s Saturday crowd grew in number, at its peak the place was busy. Johnson and Lapworth should be pleased with the response. For a first public performance things went well. It is to be hoped they do it again. They know better than anyone that gigging is key, let’s hope geographical estrangement won’t be a decisive factor in future. Michael Brecker’s Timeline took us up to eleven. Good to see the guys, until next time…                      
Russell.

1 comment :

ray johnson said...

Thanks Russell spot on critique as usual. Good to see you again.

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