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Camila Meza: "Some tonalities or chords are colors to me: G major is blue, D major is orange and B minor is totally yellow." - (DownBeat July 2019)

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Denys Baptiste's The Late Trane @ Pizza Express Stage, Cheltenham Jazz Festival - May 1

Denys Baptiste (sax), Nikki Yeoh (keyboards), Neil Charles (bass), Rod Youngs (drums), + Steve Williamson (sax). 
(Review by Steve T)
I'm not really a fan of late John Coltrane but, according to DSI Russell of the JP, not listening to it is, if not illegal then immoral, and I'm not one to fail to conform to the dominant belief systems of the day. I certainly consider it required listening but maybe only a couple of plays, which I suppose makes me a fan of sorts.
I should probably confess I'm not a great fan of early Trane either, but for a brief time after Giant Steps and before Love Supreme he made some of the greatest music the world has yet heard, which for me puts him second only to Miles in Jazz.
Furthermore, Baptiste is among the greatest saxophonists this country has ever produced and all of his previous albums are worth checking, particularly his debut, featuring a more uptempo version of Naima. 
A few years back he brought his Let Freedom Ring, commissioned by Cheltenham, to Sage Gateshead but it was poorly attended and this wasn't as well attended as it should have been either; which on both occasions, was their loss.
Introductions out of the way, Living Space opened things up, some echo on his sax, great building from piano and drums, a relentless bass behind until sax came back in blazing.
Dusk Dawn was followed by Ascent from Kulu se Mama, Charles playing bowed, but the sax sounded synthetic, though the electric piano followed by a Hammond sound worked for me, but the synthesizer didn't. I've heard Trane played on synthesizer before and that didn't work either.
Peace on Earth featured just sax and keys before the leader really nailed the Trane sax sound on After the Rain. 
He then invited Steve Williamson, who he described as a major influence, to join him for some tenor madness (my words, not his) on Transition followed by Vigil, some spacey sounds coming from Yeoh, who now seemed to be playing laptop as well, before a lengthy, hard-hitting solo from Baptiste, the effects now working for me, and providing great contrast with Williamson playing his equally fine solo straight. 
Baptiste came back in, the two playing in sync, then weaving in and out with some note perfect interaction bringing the set, and my Cheltenham ‘17 to a resounding close.
There's an album out in June (though I bought it at the festival) and this may be a more accessible way into this difficult, challenging music. This was easily the best of the six gigs I saw over two days at Cheltenham, and probably the only one which will feature in my gigs of the year. He's taking it on tour though sadly not to the North East, but like the albums it's based on, it's essential; sort of.
Steve T

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