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Bebop Spoken There

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13,107 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 526 of them this year alone and, so far, 81 this month (April 16).

Bar Manager Required

The Jazz Co-op are looking for an experienced bar manager who can be available to start when The Globe reopens in May.

Preference will be given to a suitably qualified person who lives relatively near to The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD.

Interested parties please follow this link.

Coming soon ...

April 29: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at The Holystone.

May 20 Maine Street Jazzmen are back at Sunniside Social Club.
May 23: Vieux Carré Hot Four are back at The Spanish City.

June 2: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club.
June 7: Jazz in the Afternoon are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Kansas Smitty's House Band @ Ronnie Scott's - May 7

Giacomo Smith (alto); Pete Horsfall (trumpet/vocal); Alec Harper (tenor); Adrian Cox (clarinet/vocal); Joe Webb (piano); Dave Archer (guitar); Ferg Ireland (bass); Will Cleasby (drums).
(Review by Sebastian Scotney of LondonJazzNewsKansas Smitty's House Band at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival Photo credit and © John Watson / jazzcamera.co.uk)
The Kansas Smittys are on a roll. Their Ronnie Scott’s date on Monday came after no fewer than four shows at Cheltenham. “We played a lot, we didn’t sleep a lot,” explained leader Giacomo Smith - and before long they’ll be off to play at a festival in Nantes in France.
Into my mind came a distant memory. I once reviewed a date of a small band led by Giacomo Smith at Boisdale Canary Wharf in April 2013, LINK

There I was five years ago in the role of “the-only-audience-member-who-sort-of-knows-when-to-applaud-because-this-music-needs-some-kind-of--response-dammit”, dutifully checking out the end just about every solo and every number. That was then, this is now. That was before the “Kansas Smitty’s” name had even been dreamt up, before their well-deserved success started to take wing. The formula, the bar which is their home and all that has worked just brilliantly. Audiences love this band. Everybody loves this band.
There were things that I didn’t understand then, and probably never will, like the obligatory apostrophe in “Kansas Smitty’s”. And then there are things I didn’t understand then but certainly do after the Ronnie Scott’s gig. It was a mystery why the Smitty’s (that apostrophe...just move on Seb) needed two distinct line-ups the “Big Four” and the “House Band”. The Big Four was always going to work. Its portability, its tight brotherhood feel, the quality of the people in it…. never needed much justification. Last time I checked it had done over 1,000 gigs, in other words it had proved its purpose and become a way of life for its key personnel. But, I had wondered, what was the “House Band” all about? As I say, it all made sense before my eyes on Monday.

There were the Big Four members in the middle of the Ronnie’s stage (Giacomo Smith - on alto sax only), Pete Horsfall (trumpet and vocal), Ferg Ireland (bass) and Dave Archer (guitar) who by dint of all that gigging are by now the tightest, cheeriest band on these isles. Definitely “played-in” in every sense.

And then you start adding. Joe Webb on piano. He spent most of the gig with his neck craned, facing away from the keyboard, his gaze not wanting to miss any the action in the middle, and again and again making a wonderful contribution to it. Lightness of touch, some great energetic solo-ing, a sense of fun. And then there is Will Cleasby at the drum kit. Twenty-one years old, I was told. Twenty...One! And in the band for most of the past year. And a real find. Alert, creative, and able to propel the whole band. And then tenor saxophonist Alec Harper. He justified having been brought back over from the US for his light, airy, Ike Quebec-ish tenor feature on Ellington’s All Too Soon (it was written for Ben Webster) but also is an impeccable ensemble player. And the virtue of clarinetist and vocalist Adrian Cox was plain to see from the moment he was asked to do a victory lap of Ronnie’s before lighting the place up with another Ellington tune, Jump for Joy. And what a very great singer Adrian Cox is. 

The description here, and the fact that two big moments were Ellington-inspired might start to give the impression that the band sticks to one style. They don't. They go further back into Jelly Roll Morton, and their arrangements also step forward into the directions of, say, Mingus or Marty Paich. And they have a way of sounding like much more than an octet, more a “small band that sounds like a big band.” And by the end the audience (to the extent that the Ronnie’s benches permit it) were on their feet to show their approval.

Kansas Smitty’s are now a regular fixture at Ronnie’s. They have a healthy young fan base which is still growing. And that phrase “a band to watch” which I used in 2013 has a different meaning now. They were a joy to watch.  And to hear. 
Seb. 
(Kansas Smitty's House Band are at Sage Gateshead on November 9 - Lance)

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