Tim Whitehead channels J.W. Turner

February’s jazz concert was played by the Tim Whitehead Quartet Tuesday 18th, 2020.

The first set opened with James and the warm tone of Tim Whitehead on saxophone leading the melody. Pianist Jonathan Gee played off the melody creating an interesting contrast between the two players. There was a very good, melodic, bass solo from Andy Cleyndert with well-placed complimentary notes from the piano. Throughout, Tom Hooper on drums kept the time signature ticking over nicely and when his drum solo came it was not showy or out of keeping with the tune. A fine opening number that set the standard for what was to come.

The Cole Porter tune What is This Thing Called Love? with the arrangement by Tim Whitehead, is a very good tune and not only allowed the band to show how good they are but also gave the audience the first opportunity to hear how good an arranger Tim Whitehead is: and he is good. The bass solo and bass/drums duet stood out for me. However, the drum solo that followed was, in my opinion, superfluous.

I Fall in Love too Easily was sax and piano led and was notable for the breathy blowing of Tim Whitehead that added something to the emotional tone of this tune. Again, the melodic playing of Andy Cleyndert on bass stood out and was highlighted by the subtle brushwork of Tom Hooper. The soft piano playing with added vocal sounds by Jonathan Gee gave the number a plaintive feel that matched the saxophone tone referred to earlier.

Like Any Monday Morning was an upbeat tune written by Tim Whitehead and was a real foot tapping number that could not help but bring a smile to my face. This was a very well played piece throughout and could have brought the first set to a very strong finish but there was one more number to come: Thames from Richmond Hill. This tune is a part of several pieces inspired by the work of artist J.W. Turner and rather than have me try to describe what I heard you can click on the link below to hear a version of the tune for yourself.

In 2009, Tim Whitehead was Artist in Residence at Tate Britain, where he closely researched Turner’s ‘Colour Beginnings’ watercolour sketches, drawing links between the process of improvisation and composition, and Turner’s approach to the canvas.

That tune completed the first set. Time for a breather and the ever present club raffle.

The Tim Whitehead tune New Day, from the album Lucky Boys, opened the second set. The melody was bright and uplifting and certainly matched its title. This was a terrific number on which to kick off what was left of the evening’s gig. The following two numbers returned to the inspirational paintings of J.W Turner, the first referencing Greenwhich Village, and the second The Thames at Isleworth.  

I will be honest and say that when Tim started to talk about the Turner inspired pieces I was thinking that this was going to be free-form abstract playing in the European jazz style to match the abstract art form of Turner’s work: it wasn’t. These were beautifully written and played and left me sated with the music and questioning at the music/art level: does the music add to the image or visa-versa and how do you even begin to transfer image in to sound? The Thames at Isleworth is a great example of how music can help you create an idea of what a place may have been like. The tune was lively, jaunty, full of fun: a great place in which to spend an evening with friends soaking up the atmosphere.

From J.W. Turner the band moved on to the Soul music of Tim’s formative years and the Motown sound of Stevie Wonder. Feel the Soul was inspired by the music Tim heard when growing up in the dockland area of Liverpool. The tune opened with the unaccompanied sound of the tenor sax and it was only when the rest of the band joined in that the Soul sound came front and centre – and if you enjoy Soul music then you will have thoroughly enjoyed this piece.

The last number of the evening went to You Wish, a Tim Whitehead penned/arranged tune inspired by the Stevie Wonder tune I Wish from the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life (never off the turntable in my personal summer of ’76). This was good, very good and was the perfect end to a very well put together show by the Tim Whitehead Quartet – and having written this I am now off to immerse myself in Colour Beginnings, music inspired by one of Britain’s finest painters J.W. Turner.

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