Clark Tracey + four youngsters

The third Tuesday of every month is jazz night at Southampton Jazz Club and June’s event will certainly be one I shall remember for a long time: it was a superlative defying two sets of live jazz music.

The Clark Tracey Quintet

The Clark Tracey Quintet were in town and featured Alex Ridout on trumpet, Sean Payne was playing alto sax; Elliot Sansom was at the piano with James Owston on double bass and, of course, Clark Tracey was behind the drum kit. Once introductions had been made the tune “If I Were a Bell”, written by Frank Loesser for the musical Guys & Dolls, got the evening under way with each of the players taking a solo before the trumpet, sax, and piano played short bursts interspersed by drum vignettes from Clark – a terrific opening fifteen minutes of live jazz music.

The Kenny Wheeler tune “Foxy Trot”, from the new Album No Doubt, followed on and this was a very different style from the opener. Pianist Elliot Sansom played the opening bars before Sean Payne, on alto, brought a very atmospheric, ethereal quality to the tune. So what would be next?

The Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn number “The Star-Crossed Lovers” was said by Clark to be a sophisticated tune that eighteen year old Sean Payne would take the lead on.

This was, quite simply, one the most moving ballads I have heard played live. The control, pace and phrasing were beautiful to hear. If this is the future of jazz playing in this country then we are in very safe hands and I shall be very interested in seeing this guy leading his own band in a live setting.

“Seven Four Seven” was written by Clark and is a new tune to the band – the band have been together about eighteen months – and was the only time all the musicians read the music. The tune was great fun and is soon to be recorded, which will be great to hear again … and again. The first set finished with the Victor Feldman tune “Joshua”. Bassist James Owston led with a solo before Sean’s sax took off at a blistering pace and kept going to the end of the number and the first set.

The second set opened with the Alex Ridout penned “Top Dog”. Thirteen minutes of a new tune from the former BBC Young Musician Jazz award winner. I was very impressed when I first heard Alex, in this line-up, at the Swanage Jazz Festival, 2018, and hearing her again just confirms how good a player she is. She also turns out to be a very good tunesmith as well.

“Stars Fell on Alabama” gave us another chance to hear focus on Alex’s playing as she lead on this ballad written in 1934 by Frank Perkins. There were also solo’s from Elliot Sansom and James Owston.

It really was good to hear an extended bass solo from James and he is a player very much worth listening to, though I get the impression that he is very happy to be in the background and let Alex and Sean take the spotlight.

“Veracruz” was the penultimate tune of the evening that started out with a Latin vibe before becoming a mainstream tune that was a joy to hear. The evening finished with the Jimmy Deuchar tune “Suddenly Last Tuesday”. This was a great Be-bop tune to close the second set with all the players getting a final chance to show off their soloing skills and this included, for the first time all evening, drummer and band leader Clark Tracey.

This may go down as one of the best live jazz gigs I have seen at Southampton Jazz Club, I was still smiling the following morning as I remembered the night before. There are still some very good names yet to play this year at the club but it will be against this amazing quintet that their performances will be measured.

Tracks played 7 June, 2019

Small hospital radio station big on jazz every Friday 4 ’til 6pm (GMT)

Sounds Like Jazz is a Gosport Hospital Radio production and these are the tracks played on the above date:

  • Iz Beatdown Time by Orrin Evans from the album The Evolution of One’s Self, 2015
  • Everybody’s Boppin’ by Lambert, Hendrick & Ross from the album The Hottest New Group in Jazz, 1959
  • 23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West by The Ran Blake Quartet from the album Short Life of Barbara Monk, 1986
  • Tomoki by Pharoah Saunders from the album Message From Home, 1996
  • Minor Drops by Bobby Jaspar from the album Jazz in Paris, 1956
  • I’d Rather Be Burned as a Witch by Rene Marie from the album I Wanna Be Evil, 2013
  • Butch & Butch by Oliver Nelson from the album The Blues & The Abstract Truth, 1961
  • I Cover The Waterfront by The Michoko Ogawa Trio from the album It’s All About Love, 2002
  • Three Bags Full by Herbie Hancock from the album Takin’ Off, 1962

The quiet pianist

John Horler

Until I heard John Horler perform at Southampton Jazz Club, he was depping for another player at the last moment, I have to admit to not being aware of him or knowingly having heard him play before. I very much enjoyed what I heard and saw that evening so, of course, just had to check him out further.

As it would happen John had released a solo album, john horler solo piano free and easy, on the Trio Records label, 2018. Normally I would have checked the album out before putting in an order but on this occasion I didn’t, I just took a punt: I was not disappointed.

There are thirteen tracks on this album, five of which are free pieces. These free pieces are short, nothing more than two minutes, but they are complete and a joy to listen to. John’s touch is delicate, thoughtful and he gives the notes he plays room to breathe.

The second track on the album is dedicated to his wife Poppy, who commissioned the album. “piece for poppy” is a beautiful composition played with a sense of reflection, a piece I could happily push the repeat button on as the more one listens the more is revealed – I also wonder what a piece dedicated to me might sound like.

There are no weak tracks on this album but listening through again I really enjoyed “beija flor” written by Nelson Cavaquinho. Having said that I only had to move on a couple of more tracks and Neal Hefti’s “after supper” is played and I think maybe that is the track I should be highlighting. The real joy of this album is John’s beautiful understated playing that grabs you from the outset and does not let you go until the last note of track thirteen. The quiet pianist of British Jazz should be listened to, enjoyed and shared.

Tracks played 31 May, 2019

Small hospital radio station big on jazz every Friday 4 ’til 6pm (GMT)

Sounds Like Jazz is a Gosport Hospital Radio production and these are the tracks played on the above date:

  • New Orleans (Tribute to the Marsalis Family) by Chucho Valdes and The Afro Cuban Messengers from the album Chucho’s Steps, 2010
  • Malta (Take 2) by The Dominic Galea Trio from the album Take 1, Take 2, 2018
  • Tight by Jazzmeia Horn from the album, Social Call, 2017
  • Great Times by The Stan Tracey Trio from the album For All We Know, 2006
  • The Dolphin by The Clark Tracey Quintet fro the album Jubilation, 2016
  • Paint It Black by Wild Card from the album Life Stories, 2018
  • Grove’s Grooves by Michael Dease from the album Decisions, 2015
  • Lookin’ Good by Jamie Cullum from the album Pointless Nostalgic, 2002

Tracks played 10 May, 2019

Small hospital radio station big on jazz every Friday 4 ’til 6pm (GMT)

Sounds Like Jazz is a Gosport Hospital Radio production and these are the tracks played on the above date:

  • Fried Bananas by Dexter Gordon from the album Sophisticated Giant, 1977
  • Darn that Dream by the Hank Jones Trio feat. Joe Wilder from the album Such A Beautiful Sound, 2013
  • I Thought about You by Emy Tseng from the album Sonho, 2012
  • Pauletta by Bob Berg from the album New Birth, 2016
  • Smokey Little Fire by the Marek Jakubowski Trio from the album Patient & Stubborn, 2014
  • At Last by the Gene Harris /Scott Hamilton Quintet from the album by the same name, 1990
  • Textures by the Peter Zak Quartet from the album One Mind, 2018
  • Fly Me to the Moon by Diana Krall from the album A Night in Paris, 2002
  • Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid by Dizzy Gillespie from The Complete RCA Victor Recordings, 1995
  • I Could have Danced all Night / Won’t Dance by The Diva Jazz Trio from the album Never Never Land, 2009
  • Chorinho Triangular by Paul Booth from the album Trilateral, 2012
  • If You Could See Me Now by the Janice Borla Group from the album Promises to Burn, 2014
  • Begin to be Good by Chucho Valdes from the album Chucho’s Steps, 2010
  • Jozetta by Dominic Galea’s London Quintet from the album by the same name, 2016
  • Plan B by Jure Pukl & Matija Dedic from the album Hybrid, 2017

Tracks played 3 May, 2019

Small hospital radio station big on jazz every Friday 4 ’til 6pm (GMT)

Sounds Like Jazz is a Gosport Hospital Radio production and these are the tracks played on the above date:

  • Cittagazze by Portico Quartet from the album Knee Deep in the North Sea, 2007
  • Smaragd (Emerald) by Milan Svoboda from the album Solo Piano Recital, 1997
  • Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) by Us3 from the album Hands on the Torch, 1993
  • Dance Me to the End of Love by Madeleine Peyroux from the album Careless Love, 2004
  • After Supper by John Horler from the album Free and Easy, 2018
  • E-Flat Triangle by Geoff Gascoyne from the album Keep it to Yourself, 2005
  • Sprezzatura by Freddie Gavita from the album Transient, 2017
  • Bullet Train by Wynton Marsalis from the album Big Train, 1998
  • Conga Total / El Cumbanchero by Harold Lopez-Nussa from the album Un Dia Cualquira, 2018

Tracks played 26 April, 2019

Small hospital radio station big on jazz every Friday 4 ’til 6pm (GMT)

Sounds Like Jazz is a Gosport Hospital Radio production and these are the tracks played on the above date:

  • Jupiter by the Echoes of Ellington Jazz Orchestra from the album Jazz Planets, 2018
  • Giant Steps by John Coltrane from the album of the same title, 1959
  • No Stars (I’m Fancy Free) by Ella Fitzgerald from the album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook, 1958
  • Oleo by Miles Davis from the album Miles Davis Live at Olympia, 1960
  • Catch and Release by Nick Hempton from the album of the same name, 2015
  • She Did it Again by Michel Petrucciani from the album The Blue Note Years, 1993
  • East of the Sun (And West of the Moon) by Jazzmeia Horn form the album Social Call, 2017
  • 317 East 32nd St. by Allison Neale from the album I wished on the Moon, 2015
  • Sonny’s Playground by George Coleman from the album A Master Speaks, 2016
  • Pussy Cat Dues by Chris Biscoe from the album Profiles of Mingus, 2010
  • I Won’t Dance by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong from the album Ella & Louis Again, 1959
  • Rest Easy by Chris Biscoe & Allison Neale from the album Now & Then, 2015
  • Frenesi by Charlie Sepulveda & The Turnaround from the album Songs For Nat, 2018
  • Leila’s Blues by Gigi Gryce from the album Saying Something, 1960
  • Social Call by Jazzmeia Horn from the album of the same name, 2017
  • Life’s A Ball by Andre Previn from the album 4 to Go!, 1963
  • Waitress Winking by the Andrew Linham Jazz Orchestra from the album Weapons of Mass Distraction, 2016
  • Claudeti by the Duduka Da Fonseca Trio from the album Duduka Da Fonseca Trio Plays Dom Salvador, 2018
  • I’m Going Down by Jazzmeia Horn from the album Social Call, 2017
  • Take Five by the Sachal Studio Orchestra from the album Sound of Asia

Two of a Mind Quartet

The Two of a Mind Quartet is co-lead by saxophonists Chris Biscoe and Allison Neale and I had the pleasure of hearing them live at Southampton Jazz Club on Tuesday, 16 April, 2019 – off the quartet only Chris Biscoe was an unknown quantity to me.

Chris Biscoe + Jeremy Brown + Matt Fishwick + Allison Neal = Two of a Mind

The evening was to be largely built around the band’s interpretations of the work of Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond and in particular the albums Blues in Time and Two of a Mind. The first set began with Allison Neale counting them in on “Standstill” with all players taking a solo at some point. What struck me immediately was the the wonderful musical interaction between Chris and Allison whether playing in unison, harmony or counterpoint.

The next tune was the title track from the 2016 album release Then and Now and this really did swing. There was a really nice extended solo from Allison before bass player Jeremy Brown showed us all what he was capable of. “Easy living” was next with a bowed bass opening. This is a blues number and Chris’ baritone sax really shone on this one, enhanced by the subtle playing of Allison on alto.

“Line for Lions” (a Mulligan and Getz number) was another swinger with alternating playing between the two saxophonists broken up by some fine drum work from Matt Fishwick. Matt’s drumming was brought to the fore on the closing number of the first set where he and Jeremy Brown got to play off each other to great effect.

“How Deep is the Ocean”, as arranged by Allison Neale, kicked off the second set with the Chris Biscoe penned “Rest Easy” following on – both these tracks can be found on the aforementioned album release. Next came the Hoagy Charmichael tune “Skylark”, which for me was the tune of the evening.

Chris had only been listed as playing the baritone and alto sax but for “Skylark” he used the alto clarinet. This is not a familiar instrument in this country and I really don’t understand why not – as I had not seen, or heard this instrument before I had to ask Chris what it was. The tone is beautiful, warm and rich and brought something different to this well known and well loved tune. Unfortunately the alto calrinet does not appear on the Then and Now album but can be heard on another of Chris’ albums Profiles of Mingus.

Victor Herbert’s “Indian Summer” followed with a very subtle Bossa Nova beat from Matt Fishwick. “The Way You Look Tonight” was the penultimate tune of the evening and this was where Matt was really allowed to let rip with an extended drum solo – such a lot of drumming with minimal movement. The second set, and the evening, ended with the Gerry Mulligan composition “Blight of the Fumble Bee” a great number that the band appeared to enjoy playing as much as the audience enjoyed hearing it.

This was an evening of well written music played very well by musicians who engaged with the audience and each other. The MC for the evening commented that Allison Neale, when not playing, was smiling in appreciation throughout the gig and that was infectious. The following morning the first CD in to the player was Then and Now and while no studio album can match a good live performance it was still good to hear a number of the tunes again … and again.

“Whelmed” by Freestone

Saturday, 6 April, 2019 saw Tori Freestone appear live at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham. I had been looking forward to this event since the calendar was released. Sadly my anticipation of a good evening’s of live jazz was not met in full.

I purchased the last album released by the trio back in 2016. I like the album and agree with the album reviews like this from Jazzwise magazine:

Freestone’s hypnotically inventive improv is a deeply personal one and ‘El Barranco’ proves she’s a tenor saxophonist worthy of more recognition”  

The performance started with the title track from the 2016 album and was played well. The second track had a Cuban influence and was OK but I felt that drummer Tim Giles was a little self-indulgent on his drum solo, which did little to add to or enhance the music being played – I have to say that I am not a huge fan of the drum solo unless played with a subtlety befitting the tune.

“Oh Shenandoah” was the next tune to get an outing and I have to say that it was well played and quite clearly Tori has a genuine respect for folk music. Next was a jazz standard and while it was introduced I was unable to hear what was said due to poor diction and lack of effective microphone sound levels.

The set finished with “Crosswires”, I believe, which was an amalgamation of the opening tune of the evening with another. The tempo was slightly quicker, which I liked, and the bass playing of Dave Mannington was very enjoyable, as it was all evening. The break was interesting in that the audience was very quiet and I could hear little talk about the first act.

The second set started off with El Mar de Nubes, the title track from the forthcoming album release before moving on to tracks from the albums In The Chop House and El Barranco. Unfortunately the pattern of playing was already well established and there was little variation in what was heard. For me there was an over-reliance on repetitive riffs that did not lead anywhere.

After the performance I spoke to others who had attended the event and the general feeling about the performance was that it was lacklustre. There were signs that something was going to break out of the constant riffing but then it just faded away. I suppose that the best thing I can say about this particular gig is that I did not, as I have done in the past, walk out. I so wanted to enjoy the evening but the feeling of “whelmed” – neither over or under – was the abiding one.

N.B I am fully aware that “whelmed” is not a word that can be found in the dictionary but I hope that you catch my intended meaning.

Tracks played 12 April,2019

Small hospital radio station big on jazz every Friday 4 ’til 6pm (GMT)

Sounds Like Jazz is a Gosport Hospital Radio production and these are the tracks played on the above date:

  • Soul Sister by Warren Wolf from the album Convergence, 2016
  • It’s Not Unusual by Wendy Kirkland from the album Piano Divas, 2017
  • Muhammad’s Market by Omer Avital from the album Abutbul Music, 2016
  • Two of a Mind by Gerry Mulligan & Paul Desmond from the album by the same name, 1962
  • Honeysuckle Rose by Cate Cody from the album Swing Brother Swing, 2011
  • Turnaround by Joshua Redman from the album Wish, 1993
  • Subconscious -Lee by The Nigel Price Organ Trio from the album Heads & Tails, 2011