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Bebop Spoken There

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SUNDAY 20

Vieux Carre Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. Tel: 0191 691 7090. 12 noon. Free.

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Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Is this the ultimate North East Jazz Supergroup? - Noel Dennis Quintet @ Opus 4 Darlington - June 17

Noel Dennis (trumpet, flugel); Mark Williams (guitar); Paul Edis (piano); Andy Champion (double bass); Adrian Tilbrook (drums).
(Review by Steve T/Photos from BSH archives). 
Piano intro, slow start settling into a mid-tempo groove - it begins. A round of solos, first round to Andy.
I could never be disappointed hearing Mark Williams, but, for some reason, I was expecting a saxophonist; there's something warm and cosy and perfect about a standard quintet. However, I quickly realised Dennis is one of those trumpet players who doesn't need a sax player and, as I said, I’ve never minded listening to Mark.
A couple of Tom Harrell songs, as always with Dennis; his first switch to trumpet between the two and the band appropriately pick up the pace. Edis drops a reference of The Way You Look Tonight and did I hear a faint hint of a response in Marks comping? His first major solo and he turns up the jouissaunce, taking it up and up and up. Round two to Mark, though Adrian came back with a rousing, perfectly concise solo.
The infamous Miles Davis mash-up.
As a non-musician it seems to me it should be impossible not to play something like Blue in Green note for note, such is the familiarity with the piece. Dennis plays it note for note and then switches to something entirely fresh. I think I'm right in saying we got more of it than we did with the trio version at the Caff a few weeks back, wringing every milligram of emotion from it ‘til this listener was on the verge of embarrassing himself.
Anticipation by now at fever pitch; how are they going to do the switch, with Paul on his portable and additional guitar and drums, when Mark pulls out a solo, still in Blue and Green and obviously no guitar on the original.
Tension blows the roof.
Changeover down to Andy and Adrian, then Andy, Paul Grimaces - he knows what's coming. I've seen that look on his face once before, when the Early Birds did Chungas Revenge at the Lit and Phil - an unlikely closet rocker?
Adrian hits the hi-hat, this is new for me too. Suddenly Paul's Keith Jarrett, Zawinul, Corea, Hancock; all at once.
Who was playing drums for Miles at that time? Couldn't have given it more whack than Tilbrook.
The audience, mostly older than me, look shell-shocked.
Been beckoning Mark for a while to beast it up and what a time to do it!
It ends as it began, with Andy, but it's round three to the drummer.
Pat Metheny to close set one with some great interplay between guitar and trumpet, but any idea of maintaining silence was shot. My first trip to the Travellers Rest but it felt that, like the world in 69/70, Opus 4 would never be the same again.
The local knowledges were kept busy during the interval, launching Chinese Whispers: where are the Beeches Blue? Your Sister's Due?
Knackered and in shock, I think set two began with a Wayne Shorter piece though I missed the title and didn't recognise it. I wrote 'gutsy bass solo, drummer rises to the challenge, fours with the trumpet, the full splendour of his repertoire, but it's the leaders round'.
Sail Away from Harrell and I left during Shorters' Fe Fi Fo Fum, Mark starting to glance my way, his nose twitching.
I would have loved to stay to hear Paul take a round but, in a sense, he always takes every round. That's why the kids love him, they can mess-up - big time - knowing he'll plug the gap, make it sound deliberate and transform it into something brilliant. Maybe that's why the grownups like playing with him too.
I'd have loved to stay but I was done.
Steve T.

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