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Bebop Spoken There

Anat Cohen: "With the tenor, it's so iconic with jazz. With the clarinet, I can improvise, but it doesn't have to be called jazz." - (DownBeat July 2019)

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Today Tuesday June 18

Afternoon

Jazz

Classic Swing - The Ship Inn, Front Street, Monkseaton NE25 8DP. 0191 251 3677. 1:00pm. Free.

Evening

Lickety Split - Fox Inn, West End Terrace, Hexham NE46 3DB.Tel: 01434 603681. 8:30pm. Free (donations).

River City Jazzmen - Block & Tackle, Blackthorn Way, Ashington NE63 8NW. Tel: 01670 813983 (info). 8:00pm. £5.00. (inc raffle). Line-up inc special guests Don Fairley (trombone) & Maureen Hall (vocals).

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Alter Ego @ The Black Bull, Blaydon - May 20

Keith Robinson (alto saxophone), Niall Armstrong (tenor saxophone, flute), Dave Hignett (trumpet, flugelhorn), Andy Hawking (keyboards), Tony Abell (bass) & David Francis (drums)
(Review and top right photo by Russell/other photos courtesy of  Roly). 
Following an absence, Tony Abell returned to the fold, reuniting with his Alter Ego bandmates at the Black Bull in Blaydon. It was as though he’d never been away. The sun shone over Blaydon, just as it had done all week. The pub’s beer garden, perched high above the Tyne Valley railway,   came into its own on an evening such as this. Singer-guitarist Gareth Beddard was just wrapping up his set to an appreciative beer garden audience as the Alter Ego boys went about their sound check in the adjacent lounge.

Rooted in the hard bop idiom, Alter Ego is a no-nonsense band of seasoned musicians who know the routine; leave your ego at the door (by all means adopt your alter), set up, agree a set list, get ready to go…once you’ve got another beer in. A tasty slice of Dexter Gordon’s Cheese Cake went down well with Dave Hignett’s Stella Artois-sweetened, fleet-fingered flugelhorn indicating that we were in for a good ’un. Band members write material and first to offer something was pianist Andy Hawking; Red Blues followed by Scriabin Scraps. All very Russian, both introduced by the sextet’s budding stand up comedian, David Francis. Suffice to say our amiable drummer won’t threaten the king of one-liners – Alan Barnes – any time soon!

Niall Armstrong is another of the band’s composers. The tenor man’s Mustard Mash was added to the menu and Dave Hignett, again on flugelhorn, couldn’t resist double helpings!  A Jay Chattaway chart – Hit and Run – has been in the pad a while and it sounds better and better on each hearing. Quasimodal – read into it what you will, the hunch is it’s more modal than Victor Hugo – is another from the pen of pianist Hawking and it, along with other band compositions, stood comparison with American bop charts. The snappily titled Word Association Football Blues (comp. Niall Armstrong) served to emphasise the point closing an enjoyable first set featuring the tenor of its composer, the keyboards of Hawking and Hignett’s ever-impressive trumpet playing.
The Alter Ego horns playing the opening vamp to The Perpetrator rounded up band members and stilled the audience as the second set got underway. Keith Robinson’s Zippit featured the incisive alto sax of its composer, Undertone (comp N. Armstrong) opened with NA to the fore, and then we were treated to David Francis’ numerous attempts to pronounce the title of Tony Abell’s Llangranog Blues. What’s the problem, David?! Andy Hawking’s Bacon Sandwich didn’t pose any difficulties to DF. Niall Armstrong picked up his flute on this one as the others thought…red sauce or brown?
To close the evening, a new tune by Hawking – How Low the Sun – was sandwiched between two established numbers; Armstrong’s Dog Leap Bounce (a local landmark reference) and former Jazz Messenger Bobby Watson’s intriguing Wheel Within a Wheel. Alter Ego can be heard again at this year’s DJazz Durham City Jazz Festival (June 2). Blaydon Jazz Club’s June concert (Sunday 17th) presents two very fine guitarists, Mark Williams and Joel Byrne-McCullough. Highly recommended. 
Photos.
Russell                      

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