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Bebop Spoken There

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Francis Tulip Quartet @ Blaydon Jazz Club - June 16


Francis Tulip (guitar); Ben Lawrence (piano); John Pope (double bass); Matt MacKellar (drums)
(Review by Russell) 

Tyneside's jazz calendar continues to present difficult choices with Sunday evening a case in point; Gerry Richardson playing a Jazz Co-op gig would ordinarily be a 'must', the Customs House Big Band's twentieth-anniversary concert at its Mill Dam HQ in South Shields similarly unmissable, and upriver at Blaydon on Tyne, the 'new wave' set out to show what is happening in the many and varied hothouses across the country and, indeed, overseas.

The Black Bull in Blaydon won the day with your correspondent (BSH Editor-in-Chief rightly opting to review the 'big do' at the Customs House). The Francis Tulip Quartet comprises bandleader, guitarist Francis Tulip (Birmingham Conservatoire), pianist Ben Lawrence (Durham University, mathematics!), drummer Matt MacKellar (on vacation from Berklee, USA) and, on this gig, a more than able dep on bass, John Pope. JP graduated from Newcastle University a while ago so this jobbing gig held few fears. 


Kenny Dorham, John Lewis, Mulgrew Miller, Trane, Joshua Redman, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, these the composers in the pad. Historically Blaydon Jazz Club is more GASbook than 'modern/contemporary' in outlook so would this evening's gig take some of the regulars out of their comfort zone? 

Short Story (Dorham), Milestones (Lewis), Like Sonny (Coltrane), it soon became clear that those present were liking what they were hearing. The band's soloists - all four of them - dazzled, not least the rapidly developing Ben Lawrence. It seems like five minutes ago that Ben was a fledgling muso finding his way at Paul Edis' Saturday morning workshops at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle. Here at the Black Bull, the reserved young man exhibited a fine understanding of the music; the structure of the composition, group interplay, dynamics, the lot. 

Like Sonny went in and out of swingtime as easy as you like - this from three twenteens and JP who is just a few years their senior. Joshua Redman's waltz-time Soul Dance closed an absorbing hour-long first set. Raffle time. A winner! A bottle of Shiraz from Oz, thank you very much! The Black Bull's friendly patrons had enjoyed an afternoon gig in the bar and hung around to chew the cud as the jazz heads emerged from the adjacent lounge to recharge their glasses.     

Matt MacKellar's shimmering cymbal work - a la Max Roach - introduced All or Nothing at All to an attentive crowd, no one was going anywhere, all were impressed with what had gone down first set. Time for a blues said Tulip. Sonny Rollins' Solid the vehicle, slow tempo, our guitarist skating over the fretboard with enviable ease. This one could be called a 'no hurry' blues, JP's double bass walking the quartet through it, simply tremendous. 
 
A couple from Weather Report co-founder Wane Shorter (The Big Push and the ballad Penelope), one-time Jazz Messenger Terence Blanchard's Breathless featuring a fine solo, perhaps the solo of the night, by Tulip and a GASbook ballad - Body and Soul - thrown in for good measure made for a memorable night of jazz from four superb practitioners of the art. To close proceedings Herbie Hancock's One Finger Snap, taken at a pace Keith Nichols would describe as 'tear-arse', left no one in any doubt the next generation is staking its claim. Jazz Lives!   
Russell  

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