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Saturday, April 07, 2018

James Birkett & Bradley Johnston @ The Lit & Phil - April 6

James Birkett (guitar) & Bradley Johnston (guitar)
(Review by Russell) 
Brilliant, simply brilliant. As an hors-d'oeuvre to this weekend’s Gateshead International Jazz Festival this duo performance by master guitarists James Birkett and Bradley Johnston was of exceptional quality. We in the northeast of England could quite easily become blasé about the number of first-rate guitarists on our doorstep. Two of the very best entertained a full house at Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society and there was the added dimension to today ’s hour-long programme being performed in its entirety on guitars especially made for them by a master luthier, Mr Jeongwoo Cho (www.jwc-guitars.com).

One can’t imagine master guitarists suffering from stage fright and to open this afternoon’s set Birkett and Johnston faced-down any such terrors by playing Stage Fright (comp. McDonough
& Kress). Benny Carter’s Only Trust Your Heart (sage advice?) then another Dick McDonough
- Carl Kress number followed by the delightfully titled Chicken a la Swing. All were exceptional.    

Michel Colombier’s Emmanuel is a recent addition to the Birkett-Johnston setlist and the Love Theme from the hugely successful film Cinema Paradiso offered further new material. Top rank jazz numbers occupied much of the rest of the programme – Waltz for Debby (comp. B Evans), perhaps the tune of the day Artillerie Lourde (comp. D. Reinhardt), Always and Forever (comp.
Pat Metheny) and Jimmy Giuffre’s much-loved Four Brothers. Birkett and Johnston conjure the most amazing solos and their rhythm guitar playing is to die for. Such is their level of ability the
duo will sometimes play a whole number without so much as a glance, trusting in one another, secure in the knowledge that they’ve been here before and can play anything and it’ll work.

If Artillerie Lourde took the honours as the performance of the day then the finale – Django’s Swing

42 – ran it a close second. Guitar playing to marvel at, James Birkett and Bradley Johnston are, come to think of it, second to none. 
Russell                       

1 comment :

Roly said...

As you say Russell, brilliant. The performance ranged from exquisite to dazzling.

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