Southampton gets that Latin vibe

Derek Nash and the Picante Latin Band were decked out in an array of colourful shirts that once belonged to the late percussion legend Robin Jones who, before he died last year, had been playing live gigs with the band: would the music match the vibrancy of the shirts? The Picante Jazz Band featured Neil Angilley at the piano, Chris Dodds on electric bass, and Marc Cecil on drums – a former pupil of Robin Jones.

Born from a library music album of compositions co-composed by leaders Derek and British Jazz Award-winning guitarist Dominic Ashworth, Picante is a Latin band that takes flavours from Buena Vista Social Club, Sergio Mendes, Stan Getz/Astrid Gilberto, Spyrogyra and the Gypsy Kings with their unique compositions in mambo, salsa, samba and bossa nova styles.  Guaranteed to make you feel like dancing from the first bar!

This quote pretty much sums up what the audience were to hear throughout the evening – and while some may have felt the urge the dance this was not carried through to action, unfortunately. All the tunes played can be heard again on the CDs Bim Bam Bom or Five Note Salsa.

The evening of Tuesday, 10 March, got under way with Consuelo, a mid tempo opener with Derek Nash taking the lead on sax before handing over Neil Angilley on piano. This was followed by Happy Feet, an aptly named tune with its light, bright, fun melody with a great call and response section between sax and drums. Let’s See What Happens saw Derek Nash play baritone sax in a bossa nova style. Neil Angilley’s piano playing really shone through on this tune and we had the first opportunity to hear a very well-played solo from bass player Chris Dodds.

Flight to Morocco, inspired by the Latin Jazz music of Dizzy Gillespie, featured an extended drum solo from Marc Cecil that was punctuated by repeated riffs on the sax, bass, and piano. This worked well, as it did in the opening tune of the second set, Five Note Samba. Corona, was the first chance for some audience participation by calling out the tune’s title at the appropriate time throughout the tune (the call was changed to Picante as shouting Corona in the current climate might have been considered al little insensitive). We also got to hear a second solo from Chris Dodds on electric bass.

For me, the standout tune of the evening was the closer of the first set, Missouri River, influenced by the musical talent of guitarist Pat Metheny. This piece really did flow like a river, particularly when Neil Angilley took the lead on the melody.

Following the very exciting, ubiquitous, raffle we were back to some hot Latin Jazz with Five Note Samba before going all Cha Cha with Tempo da Vida. Derek ‘s hips were swinging as well as the music and his alto brought a real brightness to the number. Supper for Two brought a sultry, warm baritone sax sound to the playing that eased things back a touch before the next tune Bim Bam Bom. This tune is influenced by the Stan Kenton Big Band, what the quartet lacked in player numbers was more than made up for by lively, enthusiastic playing.

The Chant is one of those Brazilian style tunes that features wordless vocals, another audience participation piece engaged in with more spirit than the earlier attempt during Corona. The Chant clearly has a Sergio Mendes Brazil ’66 feel to it, which helped those joining in with the sing along to do so with some gusto. The second set ended with a nod to the Buena Vista Social Club with Bexley Social Club. The tune opened with the piano playing of Neil Angilley who mixed classical, R&B, musical theatre, and jazz styles before breaking out the Latin Jazz style that had been a feature of the entire evening and certainly matched up to the vibrancy of the shirts the band members wore.

Derek Nash is an enthusiastic player of jazz in whatever style he brings to a live performance. He is also very good at engaging with his audience, which I am sure is one of the reasons he gets invited back to jazz clubs like the one at Southampton. The real bonus of this gig was the introduction to me of pianist Neil Angilley. As well as the two Picante CDs I also picked up a copy of Neil’s The Lake District, the opening track of which is simply sublime: a future album review perhaps.

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