Shrewsbury Jazz Orchestra with special guest, Laura Collins
Saturday 14th September 2013
What a great start to our Autumn season. A full house and a fantastic audience.
Here is a lovely review by Ian Mann of www.thejazzmann.com
Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s autumn programme got off to a great start with this sold out performance by local heroes the Shrewsbury Jazz Orchestra who performed two lengthy sets of superbly arranged big band music with some items augmented by the voice of guest singer Laura Collins.
The musicians in the SJO mainly come from the Shrewsbury area but the Orchestra’s talent pool extends to many of the Midlands’ leading jazz players with a number of Birmingham based musicians swelling the band’s ranks.
The SJO is directed by Jim Mould, once the pianist of the band and still a performer on that instrument in small group settings. The evening began with the rhythm section of Stuart Goodhew (electric piano), Simon King (electric bass) and Carl Hemmingsley (drums) already on stage and playing as Mould called the three sections of four trumpets, four trombones and five reeds to the stage, the musicians walking through the crowd to generous applause. The tune proved to be Jobim’s “One Note Samba” with solos coming from Val Swingler on alto sax and Goodhew at the piano.
This lively opening was followed by the even more rousing “Lickety Splitz”, originally arranged by American trombonist Tom Garling for the book of the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. Swingler again asserted her credentials as one of the SJO’s leading soloists with a fluent and incisive solo that was reminiscent of such great players as Jackie McLean and the UK’s own Peter King. The piece was crowned by a drum feature from Hemmingsley, one of the most consistent and in demand musicians on the Birmingham jazz scene.
Simon King is a remarkable multi instrumentalist. A leading figure on the Midlands jazz circuit he plays guitar, bass and drums with equal brilliance and a quiet confidence. He normally fills the drum chair for the SJO but had moved across to bass in the absence of regular incumbent John Dover leaving room for Hemmingsley to come in on the traps. King is also a skilled arranger and his imaginative adaptation specifically for the SJO of Clifford Brown’s classic “Joyspring” genuinely was a joy. There were extended passages for each of the three horn sections (trumpets, saxes, trombones) with these punctuated by more conventional jazz solos by Goodhew, trumpeter Antony Stevens and tenor saxophonist Roy Johnson. King even allowed himself a brief cameo on electric bass. Storming stuff.
At this juncture Jim Mould welcomed guest vocalist Laura Collins to the stage for a rousing version of “The Song Is You”, slightly marred by microphone problems, a touch of feedback and excessive reverb, that thankfully was quickly sorted out. Originally from Cardiff but now based in Birmingham Collins made a very favourable impression with her 2010 album “Baltimore Oriole”, a very classy release on Spotlite Records featuring an excellent trio of Barry Green (piano), Jeremy Brown (bass) and Matt Skelton (drums) with strong guest appearances from trumpeter Dick Pearce and guitarist Sam Dunne. Since then she’s taken time out for the birth of her first child, a son, but is happily now back singing again. “The Look Of Love” featured a gentler arrangement which saw Swingler switching to flute.
Collins continued to demonstrate her range and flexibility with a lovely version of Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks”, here with a new lyric and title by Norma Winstone that transformed the tune into the song “A Timeless Place”. This version of the piece was arranged by Birmingham based saxophonist Mike Fletcher with sumptuous horn voicings accompanying Collins’ assured Winstone like vocals. The lyrics were typical Norma Winstone, wordy, poetic and evocative with knowing references to the peacocks of Rowles’ title.
Collins’ first guest slot ended much as it began with singer and band gleefully tearing into “S’Wonderful” in typically rousing fashion.
The first half was rounded off by no fewer than three big band arrangements beginning with “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” , a feature for Stevens on flugel horn. The tune was divided into two distinct sections, the first featuring Stevens’ sensuous ballad playing, the second completely different in feel and tempo as he demonstrated his bop chops with only Goodhew, King and Hemmingsley for company, the tune finishing with a lively drum feature.
“Grace” began with an opening chorus for the fourteen horns only before evolving into a tenor saxophone feature for local hero Ed Rees.
The first half closed with the splendidly funky “Conspiracy Theory” with King’s thick, juicy bass grooves the launch point for a feature for the trombone section of John Herbert, Dave Hayward, Reuben Aldridge and Andy Derrick. Birmingham based Derrick, one of the best known names in the SJO ranks, continued the momentum with an ebullient solo that owed something to the style of Gary Valente (ex Carla Bley Band) with Rees later taking over on r’n'b infused tenor. A storming end to a hugely enjoyable first half that was very well received by a capacity audience, possibly the largest I’ve ever seen at The Hive.
Following a well earned beer break the members of the SJO trickled their way back to the bandstand, no grand entrance this time! Last to take their positions were King and Hemmingsley, perhaps making up for their early arrival for the first set. However there was no let up in the energy or quality of the music. Under the baton of the amiable Mould SJO are a skilful, well drilled unit with an obvious enthusiasm for the music.
Set two began with US big band arranger Bob Florence’s “Carmelo’s By The Freeway”, a stirring call to arms featuring solos by Rees on tenor (carrying on where he left off) and Stevens on trumpet plus a series of drum breaks from the excellent Hemmingsley.
“Stolen Moments” featured the muscular tenor of Johnson, and the McLean like alto of Swingler, the latter bookended by trombone features for Derrick and Aldridge.
The music of Maynard Ferguson is a particular favourite of SJO director Jim Mould. Indeed Mould was lucky enough to see Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau Band on the trumpeter’s 70th birthday tour back in 1998. The night’s second Ferguson tune was a bright and punchy “Cruisin’ For A Bluesin’” with some bravura open horn trumpet soloing from Stevens as he stepped into the Ferguson slot. Others to excel were Derrick on trombone and the saxophone section who passed the lead around the altos and tenors. The piece was climaxed by Hemmingsley at the drums and by the end both band and audience seemed in need of a breather.
This was partially provided by the return of Collins, sporting her second costume of the evening as she got back into the spirit of jazz diva-dom. The song was “Gentle Rain” with Stevens excelling on flugel during a brief instrumental section.
The singer was at her most flirtatious and theatrical on “Alright, Okay, You Win” , a tune made famous by Peggy Lee. The band played some great charts too.
Collins is also an excellent ballad singer and exuded real emotion on the evergreen “Cry Me A River”. Then it was another character change for a storming “St’ Louis Blues” which the vocalist dedicated to wronged women everywhere before delivering the lyrics of WC Handy’s songs in vituperative, mock theatrical fashion. Great stuff. I’ve only seen or heard Collins in small group contexts before and it was interesting to see her fronting a big band. Occasionally she had to resort to shouting to make herself heard but on the whole this was a performance she grew into, becoming increasingly relaxed and vivacious, particularly in the second set. It’s good to have her back.
The SJO draw on admirably wide range of sources and it was an unexpected pleasure to find a Pat Metheny tune included in the set, “Always And Forever” from Pat’s “Secret Story” album. A warm arrangement featured Stevens’ flugel at its most rounded and velvety, this contrasting nicely with the more “full on” band passages. I’m aware that big band arrangements of Metheny tunes are not uncommon and that the (very good) London based Big Band Metheny specialise in such renditions but as a Metheny fan it was still good to hear it.
Charles Mingus’ “Moanin’” was a feature for baritone saxophonist Sarah Lewis, a real low register fest with its bari vamp and solo and with Andy Derrick weighing in too on growling trombone.
The band just love playing funk charts and closed with the strutting “The Chicken” , opening with a brassy fanfare before King set up the groove, the bassist sharing the solos with tenor sax and piano. The crowd loved it and the band needed little coaxing back for an encore, staying with the funk on an item whose title I forgot to note, basically because I was enjoying myself too much to bother with technicalities. However I do remember that it featured Ed Rees on soprano.
This was a really enjoyable night of music making. For an essentially “amateur” band (of tonight’s performers only Collins and Derrick appear to have their own websites) the SJO play to an extraordinarily high standard and in Jim Mould they have a director who brings the best out of them and presents the music in an informative and easy going manner. A sell out audience containing many family and friends gave them a great reception but make no mistake they earned it.
It was also good to see Laura Collins singing again. Her contribution was also much appreciated by the Hive audience and it’s to be hoped that she can continue to work around motherhood and become more fully involved with the jazz scene once more, a second album is long overdue.
But at the end of the day this was the SJO’s night, it’s easy to see just why they’re so popular with local audiences. Tonight’s bumper attendance also revealed that there’s a ready market out there for big band jazz, something that makes the BBC’s decision to axe it’s Big Band Special programme and reduce the budget of the BBC Big Band appear even more ridiculous and untenable.
I don’t like to end on a gripe so to paraphrase Jim Mould congratulations to everyone involved for a great evening’s music “Live at The Hive”.
Thanks also to Geoff Inwood for featuring the event on his website
Click on the link to see some pictures
Pictures by Lance Chase
Simon Spillet and the Tom Hill Trio
Tubby Hayes 40th Anniversary Event
Saturday 8th June 2013
Great night on Saturday, rhythm section cooking, Mr Spillett firing on all V8 cylinders!
It was a lovely night. great music and the usual friendly atmosphere. Thrilling
Simon’s celebration of Tubby Hayes was lovely. Simon’s banter was extremely funny and he certainly knew how to play his audience! His variety of playing was engaging: some sharp playing but also some breathy delivery and a wide vibrato (this was apparent on ‘Syria’) . The marvelous aspect of the evening was the melodic quality of the playing. Tom, Paul and Miles provided a solid grounding-along with their panache. Once again, The Hive and SJN pulls it off.
ALEX HUTTON TRIO
11TH MAY 2013
‘‘Playing at the Hive was the highlight of our UK tour - a very memorable gig.
The Hive is a great venue, with a unique atmosphere and a great acoustic. A perfect set up for a captivating concert. ''
"It was brilliant to play at the Hive with the Alex Hutton Trio!
A wonderful venue and great crowd.
Thank you so much for putting on this concert!"
What a fantastic night! All the ingredients were perfect and the result was outstanding. The Alex Hutton Trio thoroughly enjoyed playing in Shrewsbury and felt it was the best night on the tour so far.
Here is a review to enjoy.
The band (Alex Hutton on piano, Yuri Goloubey on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums) was thrilling. Another great evening at The Hive. Clearly there was a great deal of influence from various sources including classical, folk and ballads (Fugue No2 in C Minor - Bach; Norsk Tales- inspired by Grieg; Watching the Wheat- a good old Welsh ballad- there were some Asian scales in there too). These materials were blended into a rich jazz style with lovely melodies and exciting chord changes. Compelling listening.
It was an exciting evening because of its variety: Alex said that his music tries to create “fantastic colours.” And so it did. A personal favourite was called “Under the Apple Trees,” based on his childhood memories, which was very evocative and had a narrative with a sense of innocence, joy and passion.
A joy to listen to these musicians.
Ian Mann ( thejazzmann.com ) has written a review
“The trio's rich blend of jazz, folk, rock and classical influences created a varied programme that suggested something bigger than the sum of its parts.”
ALEX HUTTON TRIO, THE HIVE, SHREWSBURY, 11/05/2013
I first heard pianist and composer Alex Hutton’s music on his excellent 2008 album “Songs From The Seven Hills”, described by its creator as a “suite for piano trio”. Backtracking I also unearthed 2005’s “Cross That Bridge”, a similarly impressive piece of work. As The “Seven Hills” title might suggest Hutton is a native of Sheffield although he has now been based in London for a number of years.
I’d considered myself a fan of Hutton’s music long before I got the opportunity to review his work in 2012 with the release of the splendid “ Legentis”, an album that garnered widespread critical acclaim and boosted the pianist’s hitherto mysteriously low profile. Hutton’s previous trio had featured bassist Michael Janisch and first Simon Lea and then Enzo Zirilli in the drum chair.
“Legentis” unveiled a brand new group with the Rolls Royce bass and drum team of Russian bassist Yuri Golubev and Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis, musicians well known to discerning British jazz audiences. Augmented by guest musicians Heidi Vogel (voice), Jim Rattigan (French horn) and Keith Thompson (flute and cor anglais) “Legentis” was Hutton’s most ambitious work to date and an artistic triumph.
The Hutton trio are currently touring the “Legentis” album and after having waited so long to see the pianist appear live I was determined to catch him this time round. Thus it was that I found myself at The Hive Arts Centre in Shrewsbury where I was delighted to find a large and appreciative audience for the trio’s music. Laurie Gray of Shrewsbury Jazz Network felt that the scaling back of the jazz programme at The Edge in nearby Much Wenlock had served to benefit The Hive, apparently the turn out for the Kit Downes Quintet in April had also been excellent.
Unfortunately The Hive doesn’t possess its own grand piano and Hutton performed on an electric model,a Roland FP-7F, still managing to impress throughout. Likewise Golubev and Sirkis, musicians I’ve seen several times before (particularly the ubiquitous but always excellent Sirkis), who also form the rhythm team for fellow pianist John Law. The bassist and drummer bring a real spark to both the Law and Hutton groups and there was a real chemistry between the three musicians tonight. There was plenty of good humour too, these are clearly guys who enjoy being on the road together with a healthy respect not only for each other’s musicianship but also for each individuals’ little tics and foibles. This was readily apparent as Golubev and Sirkis raised their eyebrows at Hutton’s lengthy, frequently surreal verbal ramblings covering everything from the quality of bottled water to Sirkis’ fondness for South Indian rhythms. This man talks more than John Etheridge, it was hard to credit that Hutton is also a broadcaster, when does he find the time to actually play any music on his show?
Fortunately he found time to play plenty of music tonight, beginning with “ The Legentis Script”, effectively the title track of the most recent album. Hutton explained that the “Legentis” concept was a construct embracing lifelong learning (the literal meaning of the word) and a kind of utopia. A lofty concept perhaps, but one justified by the quality of Hutton’s writing and the playing of the trio. The recorded version features appearances by the three guests but the core trio more than did the tune justice here. Golubev took the first solo (replacing Rattigan on the record) followed by Hutton and finally Sirkis with the first of several excellent drum features. Hutton has been influenced by a range of musics from classical to punk and has a keen eye for a catchy hook and groove. Despite its ambitions “The Legentis Script” was readily accessible and represented a good, often lively start.
Introduced by Hutton at the keyboard “Clouds” offered a more reflective feel with Golubev’s deeply resonant but highly melodic bass again taking the first solo, this time accompanied by the soft patter of Sirkis’ brushes. Described by Hutton as “a simple, melancholic folk theme” the piece featured some of the composer’s most lyrical playing and the coda was distinguished by Golubev’s eerie high register bowing, the man is a master of arco bass.
From “Songs Of The Seven Hills” the tune “Robin Hood’s Cave” (a location in the Peak District apparently) expanded from an opening folk motif to embrace exceptional solos from Hutton and Golubev plus some dazzling piano and drum exchanges towards the conclusion of the piece. Hutton’s own contribution was particularly stunning, he has huge octave spanning hands that allow him to play seemingly impossible configurations of notes, maybe playing in stockinged feet also helps, lots of pianists seem to do it.
Back to “Legentis” for a segue of “Hymn II-We The People” and “Wonder Why”, the first part featuring Hutton’s solo piano intro then Golubev’s richly bowed bass, here replacing Thompson’s cor anglais.
“Wonder Why” has been described by its composer as “ solid retro rock groove in 7/8” and pairs an airy melody with a complex but solid groove which evokes comparisons with E.S.T. Sirkis, moving between brushes and sticks seemed to be grinning throughout the performance as he supported solos from Hutton and Golubev, the latter a stunning piece of pizzicato bass.
The first set concluded with “JJ”, Hutton’s dedication to Stranglers bassist Jean Jacques Burnel. Golubev’s grainy arco opened the piece accompanied by Sirkis’ cymbal shimmers but as soon as Hutton’s hypnotic piano leitmotif crashed in it was full steam ahead with the trio generating a real punk energy amidst the clever musical ideas. This was an exercise in dynamics with the trio moving up and down the gears, Golubev’s plucked solo was an oasis of calm amid the powerful grooves with Sirkis positively slamming out the rhythms as Hutton matched Neil Cowley for pure manic energy. This was a terrific end to the first half that left the audience dazed and delighted and CD sales seemed to be brisk at the break.
Much of the “Legentis” album was inspired by the film music of Vince Mendoza, John Williams and Elmer Bernstein with “Cry Wolf”, which opened the second set, a prime example of that. A typically strong and melodic Hutton theme was the vehicle for excellent improvisations with outstanding features from both Golubev and Sirkis.
From “Songs From The Seven Hills” the tune “Under The Apple Trees” was an evocation of Hutton’s 1970’s childhood on the edge of Sheffield. From an echo drenched solo piano intro Hutton sketched out a naive’ ,folkish melody subsequently developing this into an expansive solo. This was followed by a feature from Golubev plus another interlude for solo piano. Hutton eventually mutated this into a riff which combined with Sirkis’ snare tattoos to evolve into a passage of intense group interaction containing further solos from Hutton and Golubev. Hutton later revealed that the piece had integrated parts of Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor”.
The classical influence extended into the lovely “A Norsk Tale”, the final piece on the”Legentis” album. Like Late Junction presenter Fiona Talkington Hutton has been a frequent visitor to Norway and this piece was inspired by Edvard Grieg’s “Lyric Pieces” with the trio playing in appropriately lyrical style, Hutton keeping his playing simple, melodic and unadorned above Golubev’s deep bass undertow and Sirkis’ gently brushed accompaniment. The recorded version is a solo piano piece, as were Grieg’s own “Lyric Pieces”.
After this delicate interlude the trio closed their second set in rousing fashion with “Then There Were Four” which Hutton likened to the earlier “JJ” as having a “punky element”. This was a powerful piece that saw Sirkis incorporating rock rhythms and with Golubev’s bowed bass work evoking comparisons with E.S.T.‘s Dan Berglund (albeit without the aid of electricity). Hutton’s own solo was accompanied by Sirkis’ chattering snare and fizzing cymbals with Golubev’s arco also providing a backdrop to Hutton’s hammered block chords as the piece reached a climax.
The audience were clearly delighted and called the trio back for a deserved encore, no prompting was required by the event organisers. After the sound and fury Hutton decided to send his audience home on a gentler note by playing the Welsh folk song cum hymn “Watching The Wheat”, a song that some members of the audience, my wife among them, could remember singing at school. Again Hutton kept things simple, focussing on the melody as Sirkis provided brushed accompaniment and Golubev took the solo honours, pizzicato at first but with the bow on the coda. The choice of this tune was a nice touch and ended the evening’s proceedings on an elegiac note. Hilary of Shrewsbury Jazz Network, a massive Hutton fan who had persuaded him to come to the venue was particularly emotional, she too had sung “Watching The Wheat” at school.
During the course of the concert Hutton had stated that his aim was to create music which would generate “colours bigger than a trio” and on “Legentis” he succeeded brilliantly. As indeed he did tonight when the trio’s rich blend of jazz, folk, rock and classical influences created a varied programme that suggested something bigger than the sum of its parts. Normally I’d dock half a star for the use of an electric piano plus another half for Hutton’s sometimes wearisome verbal ramblings (although these weren’t entirely without interest or charm) but the sheer variety, enthusiasm and quality of the performance warrants a four star rating. Hutton was helped enormously by Golubev and Sirkis who were both pure class throughout and the interplay between the three musicians was exceptional. Hutton really seemed to enjoy his visit to Shrewsbury pronouncing it one of the best nights of the tour thus far.
KIT DOWNES QUINTET
13TH APRIL 2013
It was a very special evening where we were privileged to hear the Quintet play wonderful pieces from
their new cd 'light from old stars' ( basho label)
“Kit Downes Quintet’s performance at The Hive was haunting, evocative
(of Scandinavia in particular) and high on emotion.
The quality of the performers was outstanding and it was a thrill to watch the group playing such sweet music. It was a lovely evening of music. SJN has got to get him back”