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Monday, October 24, 2016

Vasilis Xenopoulos with the Paul Edis Trio @ The Black Bull, Blaydon. October 23

 Vasilis Xenopoulos (tenor saxophone), Paul Edis (keyboards), Mick Shoulder (double bass) & Russ Morgan (drums) + Matthew McKellar (drums)
(Review by Russell/Photos courtesy of Jerry Edis)
Vasilis Xenopoulos Part Two. Following Friday’s gig at the Traveller’s Rest, Darlington, London-based tenor saxophonist Xenopoulos made a welcome return to the Black Bull in Blaydon. It had been a busy few days for the Greek saxophone colossus: a workshop with students at Sage Gateshead, the Darlington gig, a stopover in Cumbria to play a couple of duo engagements, concluding with this Blaydon Jazz Club date.
The Black Bull’s lounge soon filled up with all seats occupied. Two of the young musicians were in attendance to hear Xenopoulos. Other music students in the region were conspicuous by their absence – they will be marked down accordingly! Hearing Vasilis Xenopoulos is an education. The lesson was about to begin.

This I Dig of You is where we came in at the Traveller’s Rest. A welcome reprise. A Kenny Burrell classic – Midnight Blue – from the eponymous Blue Note album gave Vasi the opportunity to stretch out; full, warm-toned tenor, ‘old school’ in the best sense. Mick Shoulder, long-time associate of Paul Edis, impressed with a solo spot, the first of many.
Xenopoulos is developing a new project: Tales of a Travelling Man. The three-part suite; Exile, The Journey and The Return – a 2017 recording/touring schedule is in the pipeline – has been worked on in public performance and Blaydon Jazz Club heard Exile (Part II) and later in the second set The Courtyard. The latter will make the purchase of a copy of the forthcoming CD a priority in the New Year. This was excellent stuff and bassist Mick Shoulder strolled through it, effectively sight-reading the part and soloing to boot!     
       
The spirit of Dexter Gordon was with VX. The twelve bar blues Society Red and a terrific take on Second Balcony Jump (from Gordon’s album Go!)  featured first VX, then pianist Edis, going through the gears before drummer Russ Morgan had his say. World class!

A full house on Bridge Street, Blaydon, makes all the difference. Interval chatter crackled and the raffle went the way of others – nothing new there! The Black Bull’s regulars were out in force and many others (including discerning Darlington jazz fans) made the trip out to the western side of the Borough of Gateshead.

Earlier in the first set Xenopoulos played a request (not a regular occurrence), suggesting he didn’t know the tune: It Never Entered My Mind. VX said they would busk it. Well, of course he/they knew it! Masterful.
Second set VX invited Matthew McKellar to join him to play Lee Morgan’s Cesora. Russ Morgan took the opportunity to go to the bar. Young Matt played the Latin-feel rhythm with aplomb. Vasilis tested him with a rapid-fire fours feature and MM more than held his own. As Matt vacated the stage Russ Morgan shook the young man’s hand. Class.

Xenopoulos marked the forthcoming 90th birthday (October 25th) of saxophonist Jimmy Heath by playing his fellow saxophonist’s arrangement of Ferdie Grofé’s composition On the Trail from his Grand Canyon Suite. Evidently Vasilis has studied past masters! As the set approached its end our tenor star pondered whether or not to play a ballad with ‘extraneous’ noise seeping through from the bar. We the audience thought he should, and so he did – For Heaven’s Sake, reharmonised. And to close, as at Darlington, When Will the Blues Leave? Ostensibly an unlikely choice, Ornette Coleman reinterpreted by Vasilis Xenopoulos made perfect (musical) sense. A contender for Gig of the Year.
Next month at Blaydon Jazz Club: the Dean Stockdale Trio on Sunday 20th November at the Black Bull. Eight o’clock start, arrive early to be sure of a seat to hear a fine piano trio.                         

Russell

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