I have been lucky enough to hear Dave O’Higgins play live a number of times and he always delivers a good live set with both original music and jazz standards. I got to hear Judith O’Higgins live for the first time at Chichester Jazz Club as a part of their 30th Anniversary celebrations. Friday, 18th November, was the first time I got to hear both saxophonists in the room at the same time and they did not disappoint.
The opening number,’Los Bandidos Bogarolles’ (an original composition), set the tone for the evening. One saxophonist with the rhythm section then the other, trades between saxes and drums. Wonderful ensemble playing and a Latin vibe, what is not to like. Introducing the second number Dave mentioned the “Tough Tenors Project”, a reference to the playing of Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. There was a light swinging 50s feel to this number, Daves tone was warm, particularly in the mid range, and controlled in the upper register. Judith’s sound was brighter with both saxophonists playing in a relaxed manner with terrific support from the rhythm section – both piano and bass gave very nice solo spots with excellent brushwork from Joe Dessauer on drums. Where this rendition differed from the “Tough Tenors” was in the delivery: the Tough tenors can sometimes feel like they are pushing the music through with a muscular edge. The O’Higgins’s eased the music through making for a more composed sound.
‘Soy Califa’ was another Latin styled number led by the piano of Graham Harvey. Dave upped the energy levels on his solo and Joe Dessauer produced a good drum solo that did not outstay its welcome. The ballad ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’ calmed things down a bit with its very well-played conversational style between the two saxes and some delightful bowed bass playing from Steve Brown. ‘Mr Magic’, a Grover Washington Jr. number had been arranged as a cross between a smooth jazz and “Tough Tenors” styling. This was a light funk/party tune that came across well both in the way that it was performed and arranged. The final number of the first set was an energetic cover of ‘I’ll Remember April’ with very good solo’s from both Dave and Judith.
The second set opened with ‘4th Dimension’, which, apparently is made up of a lot of fourths (?) – Music Theory for Dummies informs me that “Fourths” are pairs of notes containing four lines and spaces and are perfect in quality. I am not sure that I am any the wiser but ‘4th Dimension’ was a blistering start to the set and sounded terrific. Horace Silver’s ‘Gregory is Here’ was another Latin styled tune and when the saxes dropped out the rhythm section really shone. ‘Omicron’ by Paul Chambers came next with its different sound. Nice drum breaks, swinging sax counterpoint and wonderful piano playing from Graham Harvey. After Judith’s solo there was a very enjoyable sax and bass section from Dave and Steve, and I think this might have been my standout tune of the evening.
The opening bars of ‘Dedicated To You’ featured Dave on sax and he made full use of the instrument’s range – there were times when I thought he was about to lose control but he pulled it back and showed just how well he controls the sax and the music: beautifully played! ‘Calypso Collapso’ was a fun, vibrant piece that made me smile before we moved on to the encore, ‘Olleho’. This tune fizzed with energy, had a great bass line accompanied by pops of sound from drummer Joe Dessauer. Graham Harvey played a superb piano section, the bass solo was a delight and Joe showed that he can play just as well without sticks as he can with. There were more trades between the two saxes and the drums and all was well worth the extended applause from an appreciative Chichester Jazz Club audience.
Musicians: Dave O’Higgins – tenor sax; Judith O’Higgins – tenor sax; Graham Harvey – piano; Steve Brown – double bass; Joe Dessauer – drums.
1st set: 1. Los Bandidos Bogarolles. 2. Save Your Love For Me. 3. Soy Califa. 4. Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most. 5. Mr Magic. 6. I’ll Remember April.
2nd set: 1 4th Dimension. 2. Gregory Is Here. 3. Omicron. 4. Dedicated To You. 5. Calypso Collapso. Encore. Olleho.