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Friday, June 07, 2019

Vasilis Xenopoulos & Paul Edis @ The Gala Theatre, Durham - June 7

Vasilis Xenopoulos (tenor sax); Paul Edis (piano)

As usual the Gala Theatre's monthly lunchtime jazz concert was an advance sellout and, as usual, a printed programme indicated the day's set list. On this occasion, the proposed selection of numbers - standards and originals - was largely abandoned by the duo of Vasilis Xenopoulos and Paul Edis. Friends since their days working together in London, they decided to play a whole bunch of other tunes. 

As the concert was about to begin a member of the audience mentioned that she hadn't heard today's saxophonist adding that she was a big fan of Snake Davis. Your correspondent suggested she was in for a treat. Lerner and Loewe's On the Street Where We Live opened the programme - Snake Davis this wasn't! From this point, 'Vasi' (it saves typing out Vasilis Xenopoulos) chose to make the announcements and proceeded to turn It Ain't Necessarily So inside out. Superb, masterful tenor playing.

A brace of Rodgers and Hammerstein - the first, It Might as Well be Spring (it won the composers an Academy Award for Best Original Song, State Fair, 1945) with its worked-out coda entrancing the full house, followed by My Favorite Things. Vasi alluded to Coltrane's famous take on the popular song, however, here in Durham we got Vasi in full flow, GASbook style. Magical!

Pianist Edis, fresh from a triumphant gig at Sage Gateshead the previous evening (as was Vasi), dovetailed seamlessly with his pal from London. Sans rhythm section Edis' left hand worked overtime and his solo flights were as dazzling and inventive as always. Vasi is as fond as any horn player of inserting fleeting quotes into his solos, although compared to Alan Barnes he rationed them to two or three during the one-hour performance rather than two or three every two or three bars! 

Vasi observed that guitarist Nigel Price considers a gig incomplete without a blues. Quite right, sir! Cue Bluesology which turned out to be another killer number as our tenor man took it apart and, considerately, put it together again. Two o'clock, time to go, no way...encore! JS Bach-like counterpoint (they're clever lads Vasi and Paul) set up Autumn Leaves. World class jazz here in Durham and, what's more, Messrs Xenopoulos and Edis will be doing it all again - with a markedly different set list, it should be said - this evening at Ushaw College (7:30) in the company of fellow A-listers Andy Champion, bass, and drummer Russ Morgan. World class? You bet!        

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