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Friday, September 25, 2020

Abbie Finn Trio @ Gosforth Civic Theatre, Newcastle - Sept. 24

Abbie Finn (drums); Harry Keeble (tenor sax); Paul Grainger (double bass)


A couple of years ago drummer Abbie Finn (Leeds College of Music/Trinity Laban graduate) and saxophonist Harry Keeble (Leeds College of Music graduate) joined forces with Tyneside based bassist Paul Grainger to play classic Modern/contemporary jazz charts alongside some original material. Six months ago a debut album and tour dates were announced then lockdown put things on the back burner.


Fast forward to late September, a rainy, autumnal evening. That first album is imminent and dates are in the diary. The first of them, at Gosforth Civic Theatre, attracted a select, socially distanced audience. It's a sign of the times when the musicians, just like members of the audience, are obliged to navigate a Covid-secure, one-way system throughout the premises wearing a face covering. As the lights dimmed a face mask hung from Paul Grainger's music stand...


Finn's North Meets South (Abbie is from 'up north', Harry from 'down south', perhaps that explains it!) opened the trio's one-set performance. Some musicians arrange a set list with great care. This was Abbie Finn saying: This is what we do! Following up with two bona fide classics - Seven Steps to Heaven (Grainger nailing Ron Carter's memorable bass figure) and Night and Day (a favourite tune of Keeble's, said Finn) - compared favourably with composer Finn's effort.

Due to a ten o'clock lockdown curfew being imposed on the venue this was to be an extended one-set performance. A brace of tunes illustrated the trio's depth of talent as composers: Grainger's Waltz for Tony then Keeble's Norse mythology-inspired Ginnungagap (no, me neither!). Keeble has previously spoken of his admiration for Michael Brecker, to your reviewer's ear there is Sonny Rollins in his playing. 

Chick Corea's Windows (a favourite number, said Finn) changed it up and Bernie's Tune changed it up again (more Rollins-esque tenor saxophone from Keeble) with Grainger's concise solo a particular highlight. Finn said of the latter number that she arranged it for big band at Leeds College of Music and here we were, just a few short years later, hearing it in trio format. 

Finn's Walkabout had a modern jazz feel to the head and, as it was her tune, she took a solo! The thought occurred that if Finn had been around in the days of the Jazz Couriers she could have got the call. Time was pressing; one or two gentle plugs for the new album - Northern Perspective, coming soon, watch this space - then the closer, Sonny Rollins' Oleo. All things considered, in these challenging times the Abbie Finn Trio got the autumn concert season off to a flyer.

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