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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Virtuoso Jazz Trio @ St George’s URC, Morpeth - September 9


George MacDonald (clarinet), James Birkett (guitar) & Bruce Rollo (double bass)
(Review by Russell)
Heritage Open Days’ weekend happened to coincide with a concert appearance by the Virtuoso Jazz Trio. St George’s Church, standing on the River Wansbeck, participating in the open doors event, temporarily closed its doors to ensure the virtuosi could perform without distraction. A one hour set presented a selection of George MacDonald’s favourite numbers, and his fellow virtuosi,   James Birkett and Bruce Rollo, no doubt share the enthusiasm of the Northern Sinfonia’s former principal clarinetist for a good tune.
St George’s billed the concert as a ‘jazzberry event’ with strawberries and cream, tea and coffee, and other refreshments included in the modest admission charge. Octogenarian MacDonald did the talking, his Canadian accent adding an extra dollar’s worth to the story telling. Softly spoken,   to this day Benny Goodman his man, the clarinetist sat between James Birkett, guitar, and Bruce Rollo, double bass. Having heard the VJT on numerous occasions, here in Morpeth it occurred to your reviewer that Mr MacDonald doesn’t count in any of the tunes. The tempo determined in his mind, he began to play. Messrs Birkett and Rollo were on it instantly. First Summertime then, as  MacDonald observed wryly, time for Autumn Leaves. Our Canadian ex-pat enjoys putting Birkett and Rollo to the test with an up tempo number. Straight in, a breakneck After You’ve Gone. How do they do it? Marvellous! An exquisite A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square held the audience spellbound, a swift It Don’t Mean a Thing breaking the spell.

Mr MacDonald recalled touring in Brazil with the Northern Sinfonia…a hotel on Copacabana, the iconic  Ipanema girl, yes, a couple of bossas were called for. Wave, then Meditation. Easy when you know how! The VJT are masters of the form, MacDonald stated the melody, Birkett conjured the magical solo, Rollo rolling with the rhythm. Thinking out loud, Mr MacDonald said: Doris Day sang this one, didn’t she? It’s Only a Paper Moon…wonderful...One hour flew by listening to the Virtuoso Jazz Trio. Time for one last tune. Sweet Georgia Brown. As the lyric goes: It’s been said she knocks ’em dead when she lands in town, the same could be said of the Virtuoso Jazz Trio.                           
Russell

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