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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Ushaw Ensemble @ Ushaw, Durham - August 26

Paul Edis (MD, piano); Graham Hardy (trumpet, flugelhorn); Graeme Wilson (tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute); Emma Fisk (violin); Andy May (Northumbrian pipes); Andy Champion (double bass); Rob Walker (drums)
(Review by Russell).

On Sunday morning Paul Edis, working alongside reedsman Graeme Wilson, coaxed sounds from the pipe organ in the splendid setting of St Cuthbert's Chapel. Their half-hour improvised set preceded a performance of Edis' heralded St Cuthbert's Suite by the jazz-folk Ushaw Ensemble. 

Edis formed the Ushaw Ensemble to work on a 2016 commission telling the story of Cuthbert (born c. 634). Acclaimed performances at Ushaw and Durham Cathedral were followed by concert dates across the north of England, including an evening at Wakefield Jazz Club. Edis dedicated this Ushaw Jazz Festival performance to Chris de Saram (Wakefield Jazz Club promoter) who died on August 21.
St Cuthbert's Suite took the form of two parts comprising eleven sections. Andy May's Northumbrian pipes rooted the music in the ancient northern landscape with the jazz element emerging out of Edis' every day twenty-first-century working practice.

Emma Fisk's violin established the St Cuthbert's Theme which recurred as the suite developed. May picked up the theme during A Shepherd from Melrose and subsequent sections featured Ellingtonian piano (Edis) and violin, Graham Hardy's brass playing (particularly effective in the impressive setting of St Cuthbert's Chapel) alongside Graeme Wilson's various reed instruments. 

Of particular interest to the jazz fan was The Vikings free jazz blowout - Cuthbert could never have imagined it! - depicting the coming of the Vikings. This was truly inspired playing focussing on Wilson's tenor saxophone and Rob Walker's tempestuous percussion with bassist Andy Champion and the composer, Dr Edis, aiding and abetting the raid on Lindisfarne Monastery.  

St Cuthbert's Suite is to be recorded for future release on CD. It is likely that the jazz scene - listeners, media and promoters - will be joined by others, not least those from the classical and folk worlds, keen to share the fruits of the Ushaw Ensemble's studio labours. 
Russell               

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