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Thursday 6: Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, Holystone, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free. OUTDOOR gig.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Jonny Deps In Darlo! The Paul Edis Sextet @ OPUS 4 Darlington, March 16.

Adam Sinclair (drums); Mick Shoulder (bass): Chris Hibbard (trombone); Jonny Dunn (trumpet/flugel); Graeme Wilson (tenor/flute);  Paul Edis (piano).
(Review/photos by Jerry)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, the weather was unspeakable, the music was sublime. Welcome to Opus 4 and an all too rare gig by this sextet. A familiar face (and hat) was missing from the line up with Graham Hardy being replaced by a remembered face (from a gig in Crook in 2014), Jonny Dunn.
The opener, Out of Nowhere, with Jonny Dunn first up to solo, brought appreciative calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. It was the only standard of the evening, the other 12 tunes being originals – one each from Graeme Wilson and Graham Hardy with all the rest composed by the band-leader himself.
Hardy’s, The Pounce was the lively opener to the second set with our dep on first solo again. The piece has a great ending – a feature of many of tonight’s originals. I’m not keen on tunes which seem almost to peter out as though the composer had simply run out of ideas. Here, thanks to the immaculate timing of the musicians almost every tune ended with a snap, a surprise, a flourish. Exclamation marks, not rows of dots! Cue applause!

Wilson’s Brand New Mountain featured, unsurprisingly, a great sax solo and, in one of his moments in the limelight, some impressive hand-drumming from Adam Sinclair. Equally unsurprisingly – this being the final number – it ended to demands for an encore which were rewarded with an abbreviated but nonetheless infectious version of Administrate This. “Abbreviated” as everyone did “cameos” rather than solos. Abbreviated because it was late and, in the wee small hours, Graeme Wilson would still be driving back up to Edinburgh – an unenviable journey.
The Edis originals included “old” favourites but the majority were newer and, as yet, unrecorded tunes (at least 6, the nucleus for another CD, surely?). The complex Dorian Gray was followed by a stomping wake-up call in Blues for Dad featuring some scintillating piano and one of the aforementioned great endings. Such juxtapositions made for a pleasantly varied set-list. In the same way, the jaunty Mr. Hipster (nice finger-clicking, boys!) was followed by the quieter, “gospelly” It’s Been, It’s Gone, It’s Happened – one of the new tunes and an excellent one at that.
Every tune is engagingly introduced with explanations of whence it came: a pugilistically inclined Peer (Better Than a Punch in the Face); mam’s homespun Zen-Buddhism (It’s Been, It’s Gone….); a feline fancy inspired by a kitten (The Pounce) or a helter-skelter van ride with a well-intentioned but scary tour-guide/driver (Madeira). This last is another of the new tunes and featured Jonny Dunn on muted trumpet and Graeme Wilson on flute – a distinctive sound combination quite different to anything which preceded it.
A new ballad, Lost, had a fluttering, tremulous opening indicative of disorientation followed later by a tranquil, lyrical piano solo and a quiet solo piano finish. Muddle Through, another new one, featured a well-received bass solo by Mick Shoulder – one of five or six on the night – and some bluesy piano while Cluster Fluster was all about the horns, especially Chris Hibbard’s trombone with a fine solo.
Cluster Fluster, like Dorian Gray, is a title referring to music theory which is too complex for me. However, I do get the composer’s alternative take on it which is: “imagine looking at life through the lens of a drunken clown”! I picture a large man, funny yet sad in equal measure, striving to retain some dignity in a demeaning profession. In the tinkly piano bits he’s surprisingly light on his clown-shoed feet but the brassy chorus, wah, wah, wah, wah – keeps bringing him down. I know the feeling!
All in all, a great gig.

Jerry

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