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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Darlington Jazz Festival: Matt Roberts Sextet @ Voodoo Café - Friday April 28

Matt Roberts (trumpet), Leo Richardson (tenor saxophone), George Grant (alto saxophone), Will Barry (piano), Loz Garrett (double bass) & Dave Ingamells (drums)
(Review by Russell)
Matt Roberts returned once again to his home town to play a major part in this year’s Darlington Jazz Festival. The London based trumpeter brought a bunch of friends with him who just happen to be superb musicians to play Jazz After Dark, the now traditional opening night above the Voodoo Café on Skinnergate. Roberts’ previous appearances attracted a standing room-only audience and this concert proved to be no different.
 Festival regulars warmly greeted Roberts – handshakes, hugs, a catch-up – then at nine o’clock, the Matt Roberts Sextet took to the stage, the air of informality that is a key element to the success of Darlington Jazz Festival dispensing with superfluous introductions, and for the next two hours or so, the audience was in bop paradise! Six young men – average age thirty or thereabouts – were at the top of their game, the frontline horns killing from note one, likewise the rhythm section. A couple from Tadd Dameron for starters – The Squirrel and Good Bait – the horns laying down bop solo statements right out of ‘50s New York. To Roberts’ left Leo Richardson, an audacious, powder keg tenor saxophonist, to his right, George Grant, the reborn George Grant (last year’s Matt Roberts Sextet gig effectively made up the altoist’s mind to come out of premature self-imposed retirement), and, of course, bandleader Roberts himself treating the capacity audience to a trumpet masterclass by way of Fats Navarro, Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard.
Roberts revisited Cannonball Adderley’s Blue Note classic Somethin’ Else; Miles on Autumn Leaves and a Latin vibe on Love for Sale. Some gigs work, they just do. This festival date ticked all the boxes. Applause rang out time and again, the on-side audience cheering each and every sublime solo. Lee Morgan’s Tom Cat (an album recorded in the 1960s but not released until 1981) further stoked an already incendiary atmosphere with Roberts, Leo Richardson and the sextet’s newest member, the Royal Academy of Music graduate, pianist Will Barry, nailing it. Barry, a new name to some, has an impressive CV not long out of music school…NYJO, Mark Lockheart, Stan Sulzmann and most recently working with Jasper Høiby’s Fellow Creatures. Roberts couldn’t resist another Tom Cat cut – Twice Around. Roberts is an enthusiast, conveying his love of the music, expressing his admiration for the jazz tradition and his band mates, the sentiment no doubt reciprocal.

The interval flew by, just enough time for a Firebrick Brewery (Blaydon) refill from the downstairs’ bar. A seemingly unanimous verdict on a first set being nothing short of sensational. Second set, more of the same! In the engine room drummer Dave Ingamells reprised his memorable 2016 performance. The British jazz scene has innumerable top class drummers and Ingamells is right up there. Bassist Loz Garrett, perhaps another new name to some, worked like a Trojan – a hand-ringing performance, Loz G will become a familiar figure, be sure to check him out, he’s a busy young man having already worked with a list of stellar names including pianist-vocalist Lianne Carroll and Jamie Cullum.

Altoist George Grant dug deep on Milestones here at the Black Hawk, SF, sorry, Darlington’s Voodoo Café. Eyes closed, you could have been there, way back when. More of the same brilliant playing on Jimmy Heath’s Big P (for big brother Percy), not least Ingamell’s stupendous gig-closing solo. At something like twenty minutes to midnight this first evening of 2017’s Darlington Jazz Festival ended with sustained applause, another hour of the same wouldn’t have gone amiss, but hey, in a little over twelve hours, day two would dawn on this friendliest of jazz festivals. 
Russell.

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