Back to Blue Note with the Stuart Henderson Quintet

Another trip across to Southampton Jazz Club to hear the Stuart Henderson Quintet pay tribute to the Blue Note label. The set list (shown below) consisted of thirteen tracks all taken from Blue Note album releases between the mid-50s and the late 60s. Most of the tracks and albums were very familiar to the Southampton audience but there were one or two that were less so. Stuart Henderson guided us through each tune with reference to the albums from which they came and, occasionally, a little bit of history about the track, the album, or the artist – or all three.

Right from the opening bars of ‘Blue Minor’ it was clear that this was going to an evening of very good, well-played, straight-ahead jazz that many in the audience will have grown up with. This was no frills jazz played by musicians who knew how to put across great tunes. What really stood out, apart from the tone of the trumpet and sax leads, was how tight the rhythm section was: the bass and drums were strong and clear and Tom Berge at the keyboard was consistently good throughout the evening.

The evening would have been an excellent opportunity for someone relatively new to jazz to hear how jazz standards are constructed and played. The head was clearly set out, the use of instrumental solos, and the trading of phrases between musicians before the return to the head were all there to be heard and admired. All evening, through both sets, everything musically and stylistically was present and correct, and it was a wonderful sound.

The set list worked very well with good variation in style, tone, volume, and pitch. Transitions between soloists was so smooth and there were terrific bass solos with just the right undercurrent of support from the pianist. Simon Price on drums was very good with the right touch at the right time – a good example of how a drummer can bring light and shade to their playing and the tune. There was wonderful bass and drum section in ‘Cape Verdean Blues’ where Raph Mizaki used the body of the upright bass to play a Latin beat percussionist style, fun to listen to and fun to watch.

‘Exotique’ was introduced as a Latin number and rhythm wise it was, but the trumpet and sax gave the tune a North African feel, which I really enjoyed and, as a result, I will check out the album, Tom Cat, from which it came. The highlight of the evening for me was Stuart Henderson’s muted trumpet on ‘Autumn Leaves’, the tone and quietness of the playing was so delicate as to be breathtaking.

There was a real buzz of appreciation at Southampton Jazz Club after the gig ended and rightly so. This was an exceptional evening’s entertainment from a Quintet who reminded their audience what it is about jazz music that made them excited about the art form in first place and keeps them coming back for more.

The album Back to Blue Note is available via Bandcamp and I thoroughly recommend it as one to added to your collection.

Musicians: Stuart Henderson – trumpet and flugelhorn; Graeme Blevins – tenor sax; Tom Berge – keyboard; Raph Mizraki – double bass; Simon Price – drums.

Set list:

First set: 1. ‘Blue Minor’ from the album Cool Struttin’. 2. ‘Split Kick’ from the album A Night at Birdland Vol. 1. 3. ‘Driftin’’ from the album Takin’ Off. 4. ‘The Cape Verdean Blues’ from the album The Cape Verdean Blues. 5. ‘Witch Hunt’ from the album Speak No Evil. 6. ‘Moment’s Notice’ from the album Blue Train.

Second set: 1. ‘My Groove Your Move’ from the album Roll Call. 2. ‘Dolphin Dance’ from the album Maiden Voyage. 3. ‘Exotique’ from the album Tom Cat. 4. ‘Autumn Leaves’ from the album Something Else. 5. ‘Minor Chant’ from the album Back at The Chicken Shack. 6 ‘The Kicker’ from the album Song for My Father. 7. ‘Sidewinder’ from the album Sidewinder.

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