Clark Tracey + four youngsters

The third Tuesday of every month is jazz night at Southampton Jazz Club and June’s event will certainly be one I shall remember for a long time: it was a superlative defying two sets of live jazz music.

The Clark Tracey Quintet

The Clark Tracey Quintet were in town and featured Alex Ridout on trumpet, Sean Payne was playing alto sax; Elliott Sansom was at the piano with James Owston on double bass and, of course, Clark Tracey was behind the drum kit. Once introductions had been made the tune “If I Were a Bell”, written by Frank Loesser for the musical Guys & Dolls, got the evening under way with each of the players taking a solo before the trumpet, sax, and piano played short bursts interspersed by drum vignettes from Clark – a terrific opening fifteen minutes of live jazz music.

The Kenny Wheeler tune “Foxy Trot”, from the new Album No Doubt, followed on and this was a very different style from the opener. Pianist Elliott Sansom played the opening bars before Sean Payne, on alto, brought a very atmospheric, ethereal quality to the tune. So what would be next?

The Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn number “The Star-Crossed Lovers” was said by Clark to be a sophisticated tune that eighteen year old Sean Payne would take the lead on.

This was, quite simply, one the most moving ballads I have heard played live. The control, pace and phrasing were beautiful to hear. If this is the future of jazz playing in this country then we are in very safe hands and I shall be very interested in seeing this guy leading his own band in a live setting.

“Seven Four Seven” was written by Clark and is a new tune to the band – the band have been together about eighteen months – and was the only time all the musicians read the music. The tune was great fun and is soon to be recorded, which will be great to hear again … and again. The first set finished with the Victor Feldman tune “Joshua”. Bassist James Owston led with a solo before Sean’s sax took off at a blistering pace and kept going to the end of the number and the first set.

The second set opened with the Alex Ridout penned “Top Dog”. Thirteen minutes of a new tune from the former BBC Young Musician Jazz award winner. I was very impressed when I first heard Alex, in this line-up, at the Swanage Jazz Festival, 2018, and hearing her again just confirms how good a player she is. She also turns out to be a very good tunesmith as well.

“Stars Fell on Alabama” gave us another chance to hear focus on Alex’s playing as she lead on this ballad written in 1934 by Frank Perkins. There were also solo’s from Elliott Sansom and James Owston.

It really was good to hear an extended bass solo from James and he is a player very much worth listening to, though I get the impression that he is very happy to be in the background and let Alex and Sean take the spotlight.

“Veracruz” was the penultimate tune of the evening that started out with a Latin vibe before becoming a mainstream tune that was a joy to hear. The evening finished with the Jimmy Deuchar tune “Suddenly Last Tuesday”. This was a great Be-bop tune to close the second set with all the players getting a final chance to show off their soloing skills and this included, for the first time all evening, drummer and band leader Clark Tracey.

This may go down as one of the best live jazz gigs I have seen at Southampton Jazz Club, I was still smiling the following morning as I remembered the night before. There are still some very good names yet to play this year at the club but it will be against this amazing quintet that their performances will be measured.

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