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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Bradley Johnston Trio w. Keith Robinson @ King's Hall, Newcastle University - Nov 29

Bradley Johnston (guitar); Paul Grainger (double bass); Russ Morgan (drums); Keith Robinson (tenor sax, clarinet)
(Review by Russell)

In My Life began this afternoon's King's Hall concert. Bradley Johnston's arrangement for solo guitar of the Lennon and McCartney song took as its inspiration Pat Metheny's recordings for solo guitar. The Wearside based guitarist, forging a career as a gigging musician and tutor, switched between one of three guitars during a set of fifty minutes and more. Assisting BJ were regular collaborators Paul Grainger, bass, and drummer Russ Morgan, alongside the welcome figure of Keith Robinson playing tenor sax and, on one number, clarinet.

The remainder of the programme comprised no fewer than seven of Johnston's compositions. For Joe unsurprisingly paid homage to the great Joe Pass (many years ago the American memorably gave a solo recital at the Gosforth Park Hotel). BJ knows his Joe Pass...Ella, Oscar et al and this blues in G surely had the great man applauding from up there in the jazz club in the sky. 


The Awakening introduced Keith Robinson, on tenor sax, and the affable Strictly Smokin' sideman stayed on for a couple more - Django's Footsteps and For Frisell. On the former, Robinson played clarinet, on the latter tenor. In his programme notes Johnston wrote of Django Reinhardt 'Django's Footsteps is a tribute to a guitarist that continues to inspire musicians worldwide with his explosive and creative improvisations.'

Johnston, playing his recently acquired Maccaferri-like guitar, did justice to the legendary Hot Club icon in creating an evocative slow drag feel to the piece. One negative note, Robinson's clarinet was way too low in the mix and it's a shame the King's Hall's technicians were unable to resolve the issue. Robinson exchanged his clarinet for tenor sax on For Frisell and BJ certainly captured the essence of Bill Frisell's sound with hints of Nashville in amongst Downtown New York.    

In introducing James' Waltz Johnston paid tribute to mentor Dr James Birkett. The guitarists recorded the composition on their debut duo CD Together with Johnston quick to point out that a copy of the CD would make an ideal Christmas present. Copies were available at the door...

Johnston's informative notes said of Presence 'I have wanted to write a very spacey/rubato theme for a while, and Presence came to me whilst I was experimenting using extensions and chord inversions to create counterpoints between the bass-note and melody.' And so he played it, a short piece, for guitar and tenor sax (Robinson). 

As two o'clock approached Johnston thanked Robinson, Grainger and Morgan for their invaluable contributions to the afternoon's proceedings. Blues for John tipped the hat at John McLaughlin, in particular, the guitarist's Live at the Royal Festival Hall recording. At this juncture, your correspondent is obliged to mention that he attended the concert (November 27, 1989), subsequently bought the LP (vinyl) and knows it well! So, imagine Paul Grainger as Kai Eckhardt and Russ Morgan as Trilok Gurtu and you're there on the South Bank. Oh, and Bradley as McLaughlin. To quote once more from BJ's notes 'This piece throws its challenges to the trio, navigating through changing time signatures and grooves.' The Bradley Johnston Trio rose to the challenge.
Russell

1 comment :

David Spraggon Williams said...

Supercool and highly entertaining stuff. Young Bradley goes from strength to strength.

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