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12,160 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1300 of them this year alone and, so far, 2 this month (Dec. 1).

Friday, December 02, 2016

Alter Ego @ Empty Shop, Durham - December 1

Keith Robinson (alto), Niall Armstrong (tenor, flute), Dave Hignott (trumpet, flugelhorn), Andy Hawking (keys), Tony Abell (bass), David Francis (drums).
(Review by Steve T)
In an attempt to keep the wife from the door, that's the exit, and with so much going on over the next three weeks, I decided to make this gig one [set] only. I thought musicians/promoters gave our bank accounts a break in December! 
I wasn't sure if I'd seen this band before and I'm still not; maybe I saw them under another name. I'll get my coat.
With natives of places like Blyth and wildest Northumberland on stage, I felt like a Teessider in need of a translator. This linguistic problem was remedied by a set list handed over in the interval. Beauty became Budini, Don't Leave Paris became Dog Leap Bounce. Thereafter I seemed to get the hang of it.  
The rhythm section were solid, the keyboardist slipping seamlessly between a Fender Rhodes electric sound and something close to acoustic piano. No over-indulgence whatsoever from bass and drums, the former taking three solos in the first set alone but with no padding, no needless flash, each solo serving the melody and the piece.
Some Latin, some funk, three first set originals from Niall and you couldn't separate them from originals by McCoy Tyner (Blues on the Corner), Neil Larson (Sudden Samba) and Kenny Garrett (Computer G).
The horns were a revelation, a background in Big Bands a given but I was amazed to find they didn't feature routinely in the same Big Band. The solos, counterpoint and harmonising were all great, the remaining two coming in behind the soloist to give an extra lift. During Niall’s Mustard Mash all three riffed behind the piano solo taking it even higher.

Not quite full to capacity, but cracking thirty by the break, meant a bit more space for the people there. No reflection on the band whatsoever. I'd forgotten how grateful the Empty Shop regulars are, beaming smiles like they can't believe they've landed in a city which has this. A cold night in that 'calm before the storm' period, though your co-host Alison thinks it is Christmas every day, at least in December. Clearly lots going on around the Uni too, with some dressed like Bruce Wayne at a society event and others like his alter ego. I'll get that coat.

Is it still the coolest regular Jazz night in the region? You need to check it out and make your own mind up, but you may need to get there early or you might find yourself listening with the smokers outside the Fighting Cocks, where you'll need a coat, and maybe even someone with a cape.
Steve T.

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