The Roger Beaujolais Quartet bring good vibes to Chichester Jazz Club

Roger Beaujolais started playing the vibraphone aged 24 and is completely self-taught. He is a prolific composer with over two hundred and fifty tunes recorded and released over the years. Roger originally gained recognition with 80s jump jive outfit The Chevalier Brothers, I know him from his more recent work with pianist and vocalist Wendy Kirkland.

Roger introduced the evening with a brief talk about the vibraphone and how it differed from other tuned percussion instruments (including the one made for children by Fisher Price). Musically the evening began with a Charlie Christian number, ‘Air Mail Special’, with reference to Lionel Hampton and a complex bridge section. In terms of playing this was pretty standard stuff with the ensemble giving way to a trio setting and a bit of musical trading before returning to the head. However, the vibraphone does bring a very different sound dynamic to the tune as notes hang in the air and blend with each other, a sound I like to hear. This was followed by ‘Moonglow’, written-by Eddie DeLange, Irving Mills, Will Hudson, the title track to Lionel Hampton’s album release back in 1951. This was a relaxed feeling mid-tempo number that really suited the vibraphone sound.

No vibraphone led gig would be complete with a reference to The Modern Jazz Quartet and that reference came by way of the John Lewis tune ‘Django’. The number started in a classical music styling before opening up to the be-bop sound we are so familiar with. This is a wonderfully shaped tune in terms of sound dynamics and so good to hear played live. ‘Bags Groove’, with a blues edged sound through the piano playing Gareth Williams, came next and featured a terrific bass solo from Nigel Thomas. This is a simple but beautiful sounding tune written by Milt Jackson. Lionel Hampton’s ‘Midnight Sun’, an instantly recognizable tune, which Roger explained involved the use of the chromatic scale – over my head but I understand semitones are involved. The first set ended with the Milt Jackson ballad ‘ Heart Strings’. Again there was a blues feel to the tune and, as Nigel Thomas said, it has the most wonderfully textured sound.

The Latin style of Cal Tjader was referenced with ‘Curaco’, the opening number of the second set and featured a good drum solo from Milo Fell. Back to The Modern Jazz Quartet and ‘Delauney’s Dilemma’ with a very good piano solo from Gareth, a strong bass line from Nigel and very enjoyable be-bop vibes from Roger. Two Bobby Hutcherson tunes came next: first was ‘Little B’s Poem’, a bluesy lyrical ballad followed by the tune ‘Bouquet’. Both are accessible Hutcherson numbers but what I most enjoyed about ‘Bouquet’ was the contrast between the hard, defined bass notes from Thomas against the less defined notes from the vibraphone played by Roger. The Gary Burton influenced Chick Corea number ‘Sea Journeys’ brought with it a much more contemporary sound with a distinctive refrain. The evening ended where it started: Lionel Hampton. ‘Flying Home’ brought the proceedings to a close with an up-beat tempo and an appreciative audience.

Musically this was a very pleasant evening with a high standard of musicianship and an instrument that we do not get to hear played live too often, or maybe that should be not often enough. I enjoyed the set list with a its good mix of the familiar and those tunes that do not so readily spring to mind. However, what really made the evening special was Roger’s enthusiasm for his instrument of choice and the musicians who inspire him. I like it when a performer does more than just play the notes, I like the history and stories that go with those notes and I like to hear that knowledge passed on with such enthusiasm.


Video courtesy of Chichester Jazz Club You Tube channel

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