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Born This Day
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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Alan Barnes & Bruce Adams with Paul Edis Trio @ Ushaw Durham Jazz Festival. August 27

 Alan Barnes (alto & baritone saxophones, clarinet), Bruce Adams (trumpet & flugelhorn), Paul Edis (piano), Andy Champion (double bass) & Russ Morgan (drums)
(Review by Russell/photo left and below, courtesy of Eric Robertson/photo right courtesy of John Marlor)
Festivals book big attractions. The inaugural Ushaw Durham Jazz Festival booked two of the biggest names on the circuit. Wisely, three of the very best musicians around were on the gig, ostensibly supporting the headliners, in truth deserving of star billing themselves. Alan Barnes and Bruce Adams have won international acclaim and, in time, there is little doubt the supporting trio will win similar acclaim.

The Exhibition Hall filled up with many familiar and not so familiar faces. Jazz at Ushaw is well and truly on the map! Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy McGriff and Horace Silver. A set list to set the pulse racing: ‘blistering’, ‘swift’, ‘up-tempo’, whatever the tag this was a swingarooney of a gig. Alan Barnes’ Mr TC featured the composer on baritone and side kick Bruce Adams projecting his plungered horn to the back of the hall. The trio ‘cooked’ – for the non-jazzer there’s no higher praise! Cannonball – dedicated to you-know-who – threatened to set off the fire alarm with Barnes’ simple instruction: Four bars alto. What followed was killer playing from the quintet. Yes, a ‘quintet’... ‘two stars plus’ doesn’t do justice to a band of equals playing brilliantly from first to last.          
The Harmon Blues (comp. Barnes) took it down, allowing Bruce Adams’ slow blues horn to tell us all about it. Blue Mitchell’s Fungii Mama, given a Latin treatment, produced the now familiar Barnes’ bucket full of quotes on baritone; fleeting, fun, and masterful. Russ Morgan’s superlative drum solo (part hand drumming) confirmed his ‘first call’ status. A bass intro to Spontaneous Combustion similarly opened the eyes – more importantly ears – of those hearing Andy Champion for the first time. ‘First call’ Champion, as simple as that. As for the tune…woah!!! Post-bop fireworks! Jazz Lives!

First there was the blistering, then the becalmed. Walls of Jericho trumpet playing from a firing Adams on Quicksilver, a ‘no flies on me’ round of fours and Barnes’ killing alto. In marked contrast, Adams’ flugelhorn and Barnes’ baritone on Skylark prompted one sage judge to suggest this to be a best ever rendition of Hoagy’s masterpiece. Pianist Paul Edis covered every move by the front line stars; the right chord, phrase and occasional solo. A typically brilliant performance by the pianist, arranger, workshop leader, festival director, sound engineer and on-hand dep. Alan Barnes said we (north east jazz fans) were lucky to have him. Quite.

To close a wonderful concert Alan Barnes praised Edis, Champion and Morgan for being great buskers and great readers. He wondered how good they were at reading minds. The mischievous Barnes indicated there would be an unusual ending to Jimmy McGriff’s tune Motoring Along. Would the trio nail it? You bet they did! And, for good measure, Andy Champion played a solo that went off the scale! Barnes and Adams said good night with the brass master indulging in his two horn (trumpet/flugelhorn) party piece on Hollywood Stampede. It doesn’t get any better than this.    

Russell

2 comments :

Steven T said...

The highlight of a festival full of highlights. Saturday night and I'm fetching bottles of stella two at a time, the theatre beginning to look like something from a fairy-tale and the best example I've seen in years of one of the greatest inventions of the C20th - the Standard Jazz. Quintet.

Dave Parker said...

This was the outstanding concert of a wonderful first Ushaw Jazz Festival. Congratulations and thanks to all the people involved in making this a success.

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