The Hannah Horton Quartet live at Chichester

Friday, 6 May, saw me at the Chichester Jazz Club in East Sussex for the first time. I was there to hear Hannah Horton whose album, Inside Out, I reviewed back in September of last year. Having enjoyed what I heard on the disc I was interested to find out what tracks Hannah would choose to play live and what else she would select to play alongside her own music.

The first two song choices came from the album with ‘Keep Walking’ getting things underway. Hannah gave a bit of background to how the song came about before we heard the main theme followed by good solo performances from Hannah and John on sax and piano respectively. The tune returned to the main theme before coming to a strong, abrupt end. This was a good opening number well received by the audience. ‘Surfing Thermals’, a tune I really enjoy, was next and hearing it live emphasised what well-written piece this is. The central theme gets into your head and stays there while Hannah plays her solo before the drums and bass take over with the sax and piano playing riffs in support. I liked the way that Nic France on drums provided the tonal variation here and it was good to hear Rob Statham’s bass lines come to the fore.

‘Mo Better Blues’ was the first cover of the evening with its bass and sax opening (Hannah now on baritone). The bass solo was terrific with punctuated piano sounds from John Crawford all under which Nic France played some wonderful repeating drum patterns. Hannah was kind enough to provide me with the set list, so I know that this tune finished with a Plagal Cadence at the end – I have no idea what that means but whatever it is called I enjoyed hearing it. Chick Corea’s ‘Windows’ began with a very good, improvised solo from John Crawford at the piano. More good soloing from Hannah who also provided the sax backing on John’s second solo.

‘Escape’ is a bright, fun tune with an upbeat tempo. More good sax and piano solos plus a lovely walking bass line from Rob Statham as well as a good solo with sax backing that brought the tune to an end. The Miles Davis tune ‘Nardis’, written for Cannonball Adderley, started with an intro before the main theme was developed. This was followed by sax, bass, and piano solos before returning to the head. This led us to ‘Black Orpheus’, a tune written by Brazilian composer Luiz Bonfa. This had a nice light Latin vibe to it with John Crawford leading from the piano with an egg for accompaniment.

The last track from the first set was ‘Horn Dance’ based on a folk tune used by Morris dancers. A good sax and drum intro followed by the main theme. This was a great arrangement with punchy and energetic playing whose dynamics grew in intensity as the tune progressed. The number was brought to an abrupt end and the audience took a break. Hannah, however, did not: she spoke to audience members, sold, and signed CDs and gave time to those who wanted to engage with her.

The second set began with a conversation with the audience about place names before going into ‘Feed the Birds’, the tune from Mary Poppins. I like this arrangement very much and hearing it live was a bonus. Hannah played a wonderful free solo at the start before the recognizable theme was brought in. Chick Corea’s ‘Sea Journey’ followed with its solid bass opening solo leading to the head with more sax and bass solos to follow.

Jimmy Rowles wrote ‘Peacocks’ and it is the most beautiful of tunes but nothing will have prepared any member of the Chichester audience for what they were about to hear. This was, without any fear of contradiction, the standout tune of the evening – and I am not alone in saying that. The playing was sublime, beautifully controlled and flowed effortlessly. The engrossed audience did not interrupt with the standard after solo applause, which only added to the poignancy of the piece. There was a moments silence when the tune came to an end before the audience erupted with thoroughly deserved recognition of something special.

The Pat Metheny composition ‘James’ was a contrast to ‘The Peacocks’ with its bright upbeat tempo. It is a good tune, which the band played well but if I am honest, I was still with the peacocks. ‘Las Vegas Tango’ by Gil Evans featured very good baritone sax from Hannah and I liked the military style drumming from Nic France that kept driving the tune forward. Hannah delved back to 2012 for the next track, the title tune from her album ‘Forget Me Not’. A nice piano intro from John Crawford before the bass counts in the main theme.  Each band member got to play their part, alternating with the sax, but it was Rob Statham’s bass line that stood out for me.

There was, of course, an encore, which came in the shape of the jazz standard ‘Caravan’ that began with a good drum solo from Nic France, picked up by the bass of Rob Statham who riffed into the main theme. More strong solo parts from Hannah Horton on sax and John Crawford at the piano. This was a good arrangement of a very well known standard and a fine number on which to bring things to a close.

I have been to quite a few live gigs now and I write about all those I attend. This evening stands out because everything that makes for an entertaining event was in place. The venue was good, and the sound engineers got the levels right. Hannah Horton quickly developed a rapport with the audience with her engaging and witty comments about how the tunes she wrote came about. The audience were attentive, engaged, and knowledgeable – and they knew when not to applaud! Finally, the band played wonderful jazz tunes from a very well-balanced set and looked like they were enjoying it all as much as those who had paid to hear them.

Musicians: Hannah Horton – tenor and baritone sax; John Crawford – piano; Nic France – drums; Rob Statham – bass guitar.

Set list – first set: 1. Keep Walking. 2. Surfing Thermals. 3. Mo Better Blues. 4. Windows. 5. Escape. 6. Nardis. 7.Black Orpheus.8. Horn Dance.

Set list – second set: 1. Feed The Birds. 2. Sea Journey. 3. Peacocks. 4. James. 5. Las Vegas Tango. 8. Forget Me Not. Encore. Caravan.

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