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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Early Bird Band @ Ushaw Jazz Festival 2017 - August 25

James Metcalf (trumpet), Ben Lawrence (trumpet & piano), Ryan De Silva (baritone saxophone), Andrew Hedges (trombone), Matthew Downey (guitar), Philipp Grobe (piano),  Alex Shipsey (bass) & Hattie Steel (drums) + Paul Edis (tenor saxophone)
(Review/photos Russell).
The second annual Ushaw Jazz Festival opened early Friday evening with a one set performance from the Early Bird Band. Established by musician and educator Paul Edis a little over three years ago at Newcastle’s Lit & Phil Library, this young musicians’ Saturday morning workshop goes from strength to strength. One or two have already flown the nest ensconced at prestigious music schools, another is about to live the dream at Berklee, and others are set to follow in their footsteps.
The current cohort assembled in the Francis Thompson Room as early evening sunlight flooded in through the open sash windows. One dep in – debutant drummer Hattie Steel for Dylan Thompson. The Early Birds are always up for a challenge and the modal form of Maiden Voyage didn’t appear to inhibit them. Leading the way, trumpeter James Metcalf. Band mate, guitarist Matthew Downey, made a contribution with Dr Edis supervising matters and playing some tenor saxophone for good measure. Trumpeters Metcalf and Ben Lawrence exchanged lines on St Thomas with Hattie Steel making her mark in front of a capacity audience. The ensemble hit on a groove with The Ending, a new chart put together in a blink of an eye. Think Dizzy, north African souks; Metcalf conjuring the sights and sounds with Ryan De Silva blowing baritone with no little swagger.


Lou Donaldson’s Blues Walk heard Metcalf once again, Andrew Hedges on trombone, and Philipp Grobe (the Early Birds like to tease him with ‘Dr Phil’!). Bird (that’s the inspirational Charlie Parker) contributed My Little Suede Shoes followed by Herbie Hancock’s pension pot Chameleon featuring a spot-on bass line from the young man seated at the back, Alex Shipsey. The Early Birds are very much a band, playing together, learning together. However special mention must go trumpeter Ben Lawrence. Dr Edis offered the quietly spoken young man the opportunity to play a solo piano piece. Trumpeter, yes, but what a good piano player! Kern and Hammerstein’s GASbook standard All the Things You Are played with imagination and sensitivity, the first highlight of this year’s Ushaw Jazz Festival.       
Russell

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