Chichester Jazz Club opened their new season with the second half of their 30th Anniversary year and a tribute to Clifford Brown and Blue Mitchell from trumpeter Paul Higgs. Paul has played Chichester a number of times in the past, but this was my first opportunity to hear him play live: he did not disappoint. As you will see form the set lists below, the first set was the Clifford Brown tribute and in many ways was typical jazz quartet playing with the four musicians playing the head before each took a solo before the return to opening statement.
‘Sandu’ was described by Paul as a cheeky blues number and the music certainly fitted the description and was a good choice for the opening tune. ‘Joy Spring’ followed with its bright, upbeat sound, good trumpet and piano solos and enjoyable trading between trumpet, piano and drums. ‘Stockholm Sweden’ introduced a cool jazz feel to the evening with the mellow horn tone from Paul and a tasteful drum solo from Neil Bullock.
‘Salute to The Band Box’, a Gigi Gryce number, is based on the tune ‘I Remember April’ and that link was clear in the playing. I very much enjoyed the drumming on this tune and when the trumpet dropped out it was clear how well the remaining trio worked as a unit. There was a very good bass solo with accented notes from the piano and drums before the group came back together to finish as a quartet. This was a very well presented number with a strong, positive ending.
The first ballad of the evening was ‘Memory of You’ with subtle brushwork from Neil and wonderfully controlled trumpet playing from Paul. This was the lull before the bustle of the Bud Powell tune ‘Parisienne Thoroughfare’. This for me was the standout tune of the evening with its vibrant, colourful playing capturing the sounds of a lively Paris. Had this number been on CD I would have pressed replay immediately and listened again (the sound can be found on Paul’s A Brief History of Jazz album but I can’t believe that it will capture the energy of the live performance heard at Chichester).
The first set closed out with ‘Jordu’ and ‘Sweet Clifford’ the former being another good example of the two groups in one as the quartet opened and closed the number but the rhythm section showing once again why Paul can step back with absolute confidence that the musicians can carry forward what was started by the quartet. ‘Sweet Clifford’ took us into the break on a high with its upbeat, energetic tempo and an extended drum solo that the audience lapped up.
The second set, a tribute to Blue Mitchell, opened with the military rhythm of Benny Golson’s ‘Blue March’ before moving onto a very good cover of Horace Silver’s ‘Sister Sadie’. The bass lines in this number are terrific and were very well played by Jerome Davies. The tune was driven by drummer Neil Bullock with nice stride piano touches from Gabriel Keen. The R&B styled ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’ followed with the tune anchored by repeating piano phrases. I particularly enjoyed the bass and drums section punctuated by the piano of Gabriel Keen.
The Billy Reid tune ‘I’ll Close My Eyes’ was a great quartet number and highlighted how well this unit work together. ‘Mamacita’ had a wonderful swinging 60s feel to it, which the band appeared to really enjoy playing. ‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’ is a very well-known tune that has been presented in a number of different styles, but I have to say that I was very taken with the way Paul, on the warm toned flugelhorn, took the tune into smooth jazz territory without losing the feel and sentiment of the composition – could I become a smooth jazz convert? Let’s not get too carried away – and it was clear from the audience reaction that they too liked what they heard.
‘Fungii Mama’, a Calypso styled tune with its clave rhythm gave Paul and Neil the opportunity to bring some audience participation to the proceedings with some relatively simple rhythmic clapping that I thought we did quite well with. This was a fun, bright tune that had people smiling, enjoying, and joining in with. The encore number was a brisk blues number entitled ‘Blue Soul’, which, like the last number of the first set ended the evening on a high.
I liked the way the evening was put together by Paul Higgs: good music well played, a useful and interesting level of background information on the tunes and the players being paid tribute to. I can understand why Chichester Jazz Club invite Paul to play, and I would not hesitate to hear him again. I did get the chance to talk to Paul and the trumpeter Chuck Mangione’s name was mentioned with Paul saying that he would like to play his music but wasn’t sure if it would be “too smooth” for the Chichester crowd. I think it could be done and if anyone can make it work it would be Paul Higgs.
Musicians: Paul Higgs – trumpet & flugelhorn; Gabriel Keen – piano; Neil Bullock – drums; Jerome Davies – double bass.
Set list –
Set 1, tribute to Clifford Brown: 1. Sandu. 2. Joy Spring. 3. Stockholm Sweden. 4. Salute to the Band Box. 5. Memories of You. 6. Parisienne Thoroughfare. 7. Jordu. 8. Sweet Clifford.
Set 2, tribute to Blue Mitchell: 1. Blues March. 2. Sister Sadie. 3. Hi-Heel Sneakers. 4. I’ll Close My Eyes. 5. Mamacita. 6. Killing Me Softly with His Song. 7. Fungii Mama. encore. Blue Soul.