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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Alice Grace Quintet @ The Black Bull. June 19

Alice Grace (vocals), Paul Gowland (tenor, alto & soprano saxophones), Peter Gilligan (piano), Paul Grainger (double bass) & Russ Morgan (drums) + Roly Veitch (guitar)
(Review by Russell/Photos courtesy of Roly Veitch.)
A Weaver of Dreams. It couldn’t get any better, could it? Alice Grace singing a favourite song, Paul Gowland playing tenor and, sitting-in on the first two numbers, Blaydon Jazz Club’s Roly Veitch. A first visit to the Black Bull for vocalist Alice Grace, and the place was busy. First heard in the north east at a late night Gateshead Jazz Festival jam session, Ms Grace is building an ever-growing fan club having recently relocated to Tyneside.
Blaydon Jazz Club is a bastion of the Great American Songbook. Alice Grace knows the cannon, sings it, and embraces a wider, more contemporary repertoire. Choosing to open with A Weaver of Dreams was a good move. The regulars were onside! Black Orpheus/A Day in the Life of a Fool similarly met with approval. Gowland switched to soprano, PG – Peter Gilligan, piano – accompanied and soloed as well as he has ever done, and, guest in his own manor, Roly Veitch played in his distinctive, understated ‘no hurry’ style. RV stepped down, saying he didn’t know any more tunes, leaving the stage to Alice Grace.

Ms Grace brought a tune new to the Black Bull; The Sky is There (comp. Lars Jansson) with lyrics added by our vocalist. Paul Gowland blew great tenor and the number is likely to become a fixture in the set. Ms Grace is a composer; Peter Gilligan stated the theme on The Long Road, PG – Paul Grainger, bass – stepped into the spotlight and at this juncture things became somewhat confusing. Grace acknowledged Grainger’s efforts exclaiming: Paul Gowland! The boys in the band laughed, our singer oblivious. Later to be informed of her error, Grace apologised to PG (Paul Grainger). Apology accepted, what happened next? Another solo contribution, this time from PG (P Gilligan), met with Grace saying: Paul Gowland! Much hilarity. Ms Grace opted to use first names only…Paul, Peter and Russ.

Anthropology taken, as elite athletes might say, at ‘eye balls-out’ pace, featured Gowland, alto, Grace (a bebopping horn), Gilligan killing, Grainger cruising in the fast lane and the brilliant Russ Morgan (drums) closed out a superb first set. A discerning jazz fan who has seen and heard all the greats had just heard Alice Grace sing for the first time. Effusive in praise of Ms Grace: pitch-perfect, wonderful, wow! the superlatives just kept on coming!

Alice and Peter opened the second set as a duo with Tom Jobim’s Two Kites plus Norma Winstone’s affecting lyrics. Abbey Lincoln’s Throw It Away got to the heart of the matter – your scribe’s notes read: serious jazz! This was it. Russ Morgan’s brushwork and hand drumming just so good, Gowland’s tenor, AG’s scatting. Windows (comp. Chick Corea)  with AG’s value added lyrics, described by our discerning fan as: very challenging. The Black Bull’s audience stayed with it. Peter Gilligan introduced Alice Grace to Autumn Nocturne. Ms Grace introduced the tune to Blaydon with a superb vocal intro, Gilligan’s piano playing absolutely top drawer. To say goodnight, Alice Grace sang If I Knew Then, What I Know Now. What a tune! What a performance! Swinging like nobody’s business, with the audience on its feet, Alice Grace deservedly won rapturous applause.
 Next month at Blaydon Jazz Club it’s the annual visit of Colin Aitchison. A Hong Kong-based trumpeter and vocalist, the ex-pat Geordie jazz man always delivers the goods in a fun-filled performance. Expect to hear some proper trumpet playing and an amazing take on Louis’ vocal style. Accompanying Colin on his ‘working holiday’ will be the knock-out clarinetist Franco Valussi. The Reunion Band – Colin, Franco, Steve Andrews, Roy Cansdale and Roly Veitch – will be travelling from all four corners of the globe to meet up and play a few tunes. Jazz at its best. Sunday 10 July, eight o’clock, £5.00 on the door.                  
Russell.

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