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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cross Border Culture: Jeffery Hewer Quartet @ Zeffirelli's, Ambleside - Feb. 16

Jeffrey Hewer (guitar); Sam Quintana (bass); Alec Robinson (piano); Steve Hanley (drums).
(Review by Hugh C)

The Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal has a track record of staging interesting and thought-provoking exhibitions.  Refuge: The Art of Belonging tells the story of artists who entered Britain as a result of Nazi occupation and does not disappoint (***** Recommended).  An email from a hotel in Ambleside with an inviting low season offer encouraged our first visit to Cumbria this year, over the Pennines on the A686, perhaps England’s most scenic road, stopping in Kendal on the way.

What to do on Saturday evening?  A quick consultation of the Zeffirellis website offered the chance of a FREE (as in gratuite) jazz gig at 8.30pm -  The Jeffrey Hewer Quartet were in the jazz bar, and a table for two was available one-quarter of an hour before.  We arrived a little early and were offered a choice of tables, we selected to sit near the band for a good view, just next to the fine Wendl and Lung baby grand piano installed in the venue.

Jeffrey Hewer, originally from Toronto (Ontario, not County Durham) came to England in 2015 to study at Leeds College of Music for his Masters in Music Performance and Composition.  Now based in Leeds, he and the band were up from God’s Own Country for the gig.  Following a starter of mushrooms in garlic sauce presented in (appropriately) a Yorkshire pudding, I was part way into a Quattro Formaggio pizza when the band took their place on the compact stage.  By this time the jazz bar was full of fellow diners and the sound of earnest conversation filled the room.  

The quartet played the first set, featuring a series of Hewer’s compositions interspersed with pieces by other composers:  Everything I Love (Cole Porter) - Lean Into It - Vanishing Point - Old Folks (Willard Robison) - Full Tilt.  The background noise level reduced, slightly, but I’m glad we chose to sit adjacent to the stage area.  The delivery by all quartet members was masterful, Jeff Hewer introduced the items, the band played ensemble, then each quartet member took one or more solos.  Lovely melodic playing and totally free jazz-free, I’m glad to say.  After the first set, a short interval was promised – this ended up being nearly one-half hour, but did allow ordering of a dessert and coffee and replenishment of the now empty glass with the fine guest ale, Keswick Brewery’s Thirst Quencher

The second set took a similar format to the first.  The audience by now had seen some diners leave and their places taken by others, perhaps more interested in the music.  Woody n' You (Dizzy Gillespie) started us off followed by two pieces by fellow guitarists You Say The Brother's Name  (Pat Metheny) and I'll Take Les (John Scofield).  You Don't Know What Love Is (Gene de Paul) preceded the final offering,  Billy Strayhorn’s Upper Manhattan Medical Group – a bit of a mouthful, as Hewer observed – better known to the band as UMMG (pronounced ummaga).  They thought it was all over – it was now.  Out into the delightfully rain-free Lake District air.

This was an excellent gig in a friendly venue, a favourite of both the musicians and this reviewer.  Perhaps we might see the quartet in the North East in the future?

More information about Jeff Hewer and the Quartet can be found here.

For fellow members of the freternity:  Jeffrey played a Gibson 335 through a Fender Blues Junior III amplifier, using D'Addario strings with a custom string gauge of .013, 0.16, 0.24, 0.28, 0.38, 0.49.

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