Monk & Trane on guitar & sax

Saxophonist Dave O’Higgins and guitarist Rob Luft teamed up with keys player Scott Flanigan and drummer Rod Youngs to provide two sets of exceptionally good live jazz music on Tuesday, 17 September, 2019, at Southampton Jazz Club.

The band started with the Rodgers and Hart number Spring is Here. The tune was played at a good tempo and each band member was given their own solo spot as a way of introducing the players to the audience. Dave O’Higgins then explained that the number had been reimagined as to how he thought John Coltrane might have played it five years later then when he had. So the evening was to be about music written or played by Monk & Trane.

A Thelonious Monk tune was next on the playlist: Played Twice. The tempo was slower than the first number with the two leads taking turns to move the number on. Rob’s guitar playing gave the tune a different texture, which I very much enjoyed. There was a subtlety in the support playing of Scott Flanigan and Rod Youngs, which was then given by Luft and Youngs when the organ solo kicked in – Rob Luft making use of soundscapes rather than individual notes, which I considered very effective and not something I had heard used to effect at this club before.

Latest album release

The third title of the first set was the Tommy Flanagan number Minor Mishap (track four on the new album), which for me turned out to be the highlight of the first set – but not of the evening. Dave O’Higgins took the lead before Scott Flanigan and Rob Luft stepped up. The drumming of Rod Youngs was excellent throughout and you could hear why Rob Luft has been chosen to join the BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists Scheme this autumn.

The penultimate number of the first set was My Ideal with the two leads again taking turns at the front and again with Rob Luft playing beautifully under Dave O’Higgins’ lead. Another very good organ solo from Scott Flanigan with support from Rob and all the time Rod Youngs keeping time in the background.

The first set ended with Tadd Dameron’s Superjet and if ever band’s playing matched a song title this was it. The tempo was up, the note runs were terrific, all got to play a solo – and drummer Rod Youngs looked like he really enjoyed playing his. This was a great end to a very good first set.

The tune We Seven opened the second set and what a good choice to bring an audience back in to that jazz groove that the first set had ended on. This was followed by Monk’s Four in One (originally recorded in 1953 for the Genius of Modern Music sessions), which again allowed for solo work from Dave, Rob and Scott. The interplay between Rob Luft and Dave O’Higgins was simply wonderful to listen to and it was there at both the beginning and end of the tune.

Coltrane’s Moments Notice recorded on the Blue Train album was next to feature and quite simply it was a joy to hear from start to finish. However, Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, which I consider to be the standout tune of the evening, topped Blue Train.

‘Round Midnight started with Dave O’Higgins playing an unaccompanied solo the tone of which was breathtaking – and was almost spoilt by the much deserved applause from the audience. The rest of the band then joined in – with some very good brushwork from drummer Rod Youngs – taking the tempo up slightly before falling back to bring this sublime tune to an end.

Jackie McLean’s Little Melonae set off at a cracking start before easing back again to allow the band to highlight their unmistakable talents in another round of solos. The two leads certainly shone at the front but without the very strong backing from Scott and Rod they would not have shone so brightly.

If you missed them at Southampton try and catch them elsewhere, you will not be disappointed

The evening came to an end with Monk’s Blue Monk, a classic jazz standard played by a band that were enjoying themselves and delighting their audience: that’s why live jazz music beats recorded jazz music and why jazz clubs up and down the country need to be supported.

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