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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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bradley Johnston Quartet @ The Lit & Phil – July 12.

Keith Robinson (reeds); Bradley Johnston (guitar); Paul Grainger (bass); Russ Morgan (drums),
(Review/photos courtesy of Brian Ebbatson)

Publicity for this gig from guitarist Bradley Johnston promised “a musical journey that explores guitar playing over the last 100 years”, but it was a much more personal selection of pieces, mainly by Bradley himself – four out of six of the tunes featured were from his pen – although there was certainly a strong element of paying tribute to his influences.

Bradley opened solo with his arrangement of John Lennon’s In My Life, a dreamy interpretation very reminiscent of Bill Frisell – indeed it features on Frisell’s 2011 album All We Are Saying. Bradley wove his way with synth-like chords through and around the George Harrison intro and the Lennon melody. Maybe it was a 70’s Beatles number but this was definitely a second-decade C21 interpretation.

The band came in for For Joe, the first of four consecutive Johnston compositions, a guitar and sax-led hard-bop theme, which upped the tempo of the concert. Then followed the sweeping sax intro of The Awakening, Russ punctuating on drums and cymbals, Paul holding the rhythm, Keith taking flight on his horn and intricate guitar work from Bradley.

Django’s Footsteps took us into the familiar territory of Brad’s apprenticeship with James Birkett, a jaunty typical Reinhardt rhythm, with Keith on Hubert Rostaing style clarinet. James’ Waltz, (Bradley’s first composition, he said,) familiar to many from Brad and James’ 2014 CD Together, a gentle melody, giving Brad the opportunity to demonstrate his sensitive guitar style.

Douce Ambience, an up-tempo Grappelli – Reinhardt composition, with Keith on clarinet again, followed by Bradley’s tribute to another guitar master, For Frisell.

Keith stood down while Brad led on a beautiful folky melody, Russ on brushes and Paul’s bass in complete empathy behind him.

For Presence – another Brad composition – Keith and Bradley played the theme before the guitar gently segued seamlessly into A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, which brought us to a short finale with Limehouse Blues for the band to sign off with a flourish, greeted by appreciative applause from the near-capacity Lit & Phil audience. Bradley told me this was only the band’s third outing with this material. It certainly has potential and this audience would certainly have stayed for more.

Hopefully other venues will extend an invitation; with more exposure the possibilities are limitless.
Brian E.

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