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Thursday 6: Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, Holystone, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free. OUTDOOR gig.

Friday, July 12, 2019

John Pope Quintet @ the Bridge Hotel - July 7


Faye MacCalman (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Jamie Stockbridge (alto saxophone); Graham Hardy (trumpet); John Pope (double bass;) Johnny Hunter (drums)
(Review by Steve H)

This band played its inaugural gig at this very same venue  3 years ago. I said in my review at the time how much I hoped that this would not just be a one-off gig. The band is geographically split between Newcastle and Manchester although even the non-Geordie residents have Newcastle connections. Pope, MacCalman and Hardy are well known local favourites. Jamie Stockbridge although now resident in Manchester formed his regular band Taupe in Newcastle and Johnny Hunter appears so many times in Newcastle I suspect he may have a season ticket for United. Thankfully having being selected as one of this year’s Jazz North’s Northern Line bands they have been able to come together more often and Sunday night saw the culmination of a 4 gig Northern Powerhouse tour (Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield).

The original premise of the quintet was as a tribute to Ornette Coleman and there is definitely still a touch of the Ornettes about them not only on the Coleman tunes but also on many of the others, most of which were penned by The Pope himself. John was keen to point out that his compositions are inspired by those who have gone before and on Sunday night name checks were given to Graham Collier and Misha Mengelberg.

The initial part of the first set was literally blinding as the evening sun poured through the Bridge’s bay windows making it a little uncomfortable and forcing this correspondent to don sunglasses. However, once the sun had begun to set I was able to concentrate on the tremendous music emanating from the bandstand especially the magnificently named Country Bears Go North inspired by the famous Disney audio-animatronic attraction.

With the sunglasses now removed I settled down to watch the second set of simply barnstormingly brilliant music. One really raucous stomping high-velocity tune was followed by a delightful ballad the name of which I couldn’t quite catch but it had Glass in the title and was about peace (Piece of glass?). An encore was demanded and we were rewarded with an old favourite of John’s, The Pixies/David Lynch song The Lady in the Radiator.

This really is a fantastic band the soloists are all superb as is the ensemble playing. They are an outstanding example of contemporary modern British jazz. I certainly enjoyed this gig as much as if not more than many others that I have seen from far more feted bands. Hopefully, the exposure given to them by being on the current Northern Line roster will propel them to national if not international recognition.     
Steve H

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