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Bebop Spoken There

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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Black Swan Jam Session (in the Mezzanine Café) - March 19

Jeremy McMurray (piano); John Pope (drums); Dave McKeague (drums) + Steve Summers (alto/tenor saxes); Graham Easthope (soprano/tenor saxes); Jordan Alfonso (alto sax); Elliott Todd (trumpet); David 'Showtime' Gray (trombone); Paddy ? (clarinet).
(Review/PHOTOS by Lance).

Three cracking gigs in a row and if I'd been able to slot in Blaydon, Bishop Auckland and the Lit & Phil it would have been six!

I'm going to buck protocol and relive last night by starting at the finish. All the major players are on stage - this could have been JATP at Hartford, Connecticut back in the 1950s except it was 2019 in Newcastle. The fortnightly Jam at the Black Swan Arts Centre taking place, for this week only, in the Mezzanine Café. Accessible via a series of signposted twists and turns - by comparision the maze at Hampton Court pales into insignificance - the question debated by the contenders is as to whether the grand finale should be Cherokee or Caravan

Caravan it is. The house trio sets the pace leading them across the burning sands. Valves fingered, keys rattled, slide slid in anticipation. A battle royal. It's Joshua, Fury, Wilder and a couple more preparing to mug each other. Showtime Gray isn't taking prisoners, he never does, staccato bursts pepper the room, the body language adds video to the audio and the crowd roars its approval. Wild!

Todd offers contrast, he's lyrical and melodic without letting the temperature drop. Enter Alfonso he takes it up a notch with a paint-stripping solo - even Charlie Parker* couldn't top this - it looked like game, set and match to Jordan.
Wrong!
Easthope and Summers form an unholy alliance to wipe the floor with the opposition. The intricate weaving, the contrapuntal passages all slot together and the crown is theirs which just goes to prove that two heads are better than one.

A fitting climax to what, initially, had had me thinking of an early bath.

The opener by the trio suggested that the acoustics were less than perfect. McKeague, a drummer whom I rate very highly, drowned everyone out including McMurray which isn't easy. However, as the evening progressed the balance improved which had me wondering if its the band that adjusts to the acoustics of the room or is it the ears of the listeners that adjust? Certainly, by the time the caravanserai set off everything was Jake.

The first of the jammers was a debutant clarinetist identified only as Paddy who, by his own admission was very nervous to the extent he played with his back to the audience and eschewed the use of the mic. which would have made his playing more audible. Also putting him in with big hitter Steve Summers probably added to his trepidation. Autumn Leaves and Who's Sorry Now? the test pieces. Let's hope he returns now that he's dipped his reed into the water.

Easthope on soprano, Summers on tenor and Showtime took off on Afro Blue. Easthope's dramatic entry on soprano was electrifying! Summers had some Getzian moments on How Insensitive before a second break was called.

Bottles of Grainger Ale were quaffed then we were off once more. Alfonso taking Yardbird Suite on a memorable flight. Black Orpheus meant Machine Gun Gray entering the fray on a number that also had powerhouse piano from McMurray and some dynamic drumming from Dave (McKeague).

Todd and Summers (now on alto) gave There Will Never Be Another You a workout which saw Pope take a bass solo that trespassed into violin/viola territory.

Easthope blew tenor on that good old 'erbie 'ancock classic - Watermelon Man. Some nice drum 'n' bass work going on.

A suggestion that they played some Miles was readily taken up and, of course, it was All Blues - come back Summertime all is forgiven! Miles' repertoire is extensive and yet it always seems to be that one! Still, they did a job on it with Pope once more defying gravity. And this is where we came in.

All's well that ends well.
Lance.
*Not the Charlie Parker but a painter and decorator of my acquaintance.

1 comment :

Patti said...

Yeah - it was a great night - and full of surprises! I can imagine that Juan Tizol himself would be impressed with young Showtime's playing on Caravan .......

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