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Sunday, June 09, 2019

The Alexander Bone Trio @ Swaledale Festival of Music, Arts and Walking – June 8


Alexander Bone (reeds); Tom Cawley (keys); Seth Tackaberry (bass)
(Review by Hugh C).

The final event of the festival took place in the sumptuous surroundings of the Garden Rooms venue associated with Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn – apparently the largest auction saleroom in Europe.  The Cloister Suite (so named because it forms two sides of an enclosed, glass-roofed courtyard) provided a curious L-shaped space for this concert, with a small stage (just big enough for three) in the outer corner of the L.  The gig followed hard on the heels of Kathryn Tickell’s The Darkening, in a much larger hall, filled to capacity.  Local lad, Alexander Bone, was fresh up from the Big Smoke that day, having just completed his final examination at the Royal Academy of Music. He was pleased to be home, and his parents were in the well-sized audience.
 Tony Bennett’s Nobody Else But Me kicked off proceedings.  Alexander Bone, on alto, set the pace followed by a solo from Tom Cawley on his Nord Electro 4 with an electric piano/Fender-Rhodes type sound, which he used throughout the evening.  After another ensemble section, Seth Tackaberry soloed on electric bass with sensitive interjections from both Cawley and Bone.  This pattern was replicated in subsequent items.  Bone then introduced “the fourth member of the band” – a computer programmed to play repetitive claps and shaker, Aldgate (a Bone composition) saw the reedsman switch to soprano – introduced with the question “do you know what this is?”  The curve-ball of the curved bell, however, did not confuse the savvy audience, who immediately responded “soprano”. 

Bone returned to alto for the next three items.  Hold Out for the Sun, a beautifully crafted (by Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker) piece with subtle melodic and harmonic interplay, exquisitely executed by the trio.  A return to reality next – Tom Cawley composed Come Back Home You Little Bastard! after his cat (which he had for only two months) disappeared – it has apparently not returned to this day! The first set ended with a ballad I’ll Be Seeing You (Billie Holiday). 

After a 20-minute interval the second set commenced with another Bone composition, I’m Still Here.  Alexander Bone, delivered enchanting alto solos, his eyes closed in intense concentration – or was he in danger of going cross-eyed trying to engage two distinct sections of the audience in each arm of the room, who could both see the stage, but not each other?  Another quiz question:  “What’s this?” asked Bone, holding up a black, cylindrical rod-like object with shiny metal keys.  Silence – then a disembodied voice in the other part of the audience piped-up.  The object concerned was an EWI (pronounced eewee) – an acronym for “electronic wind instrument”.  The tone produced in this demonstration seemed (to this reviewer at least) a cross between a keyboard and a guitar with a bit of sax thrown in.  In any event, Alexander Bone used the instrument to good effect in a storming rendition of Keith Jarrett’s Seven Smiles. Seth Tackaberry’s Space Cadet found Alexander Bone returning to alto and also featured another inspiring exploratory bass solo by the man himself.  A quick check of the time by Alexander on his phone (as you do – wristwatches are so last century) indicated the gig was over – or was it?  We were forewarned that there would be no time for an encore (one wag in the other wing shouted “Encore!), the trio then launched into Dizzy Gillespie’s Groovin’ High sending the audience out buzzing.

This was a fitting end to a splendid fortnight of musical and artistic events (not to mention the walks).  The Festival’s Musical Director, esteemed jazz bassist and musical polymath, Malcolm Creese had informed us before the gig that this year’s festival was the biggest so far in terms of tickets sold and artists engaged.  The Festival is highly recommended with venues in the idyllic surroundings of both Swaledale and Wensleydale.  Next year’s festival is scheduled to take place from 23 May to 6 June 2020 and information will be available on their website (swalefest.org).
Hugh C.

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