Aquarium at the hive , shrewsbury 9th june 2012
review by an SJN regular
So why do I go to such gigs? It's because I admire people presenting new music and realise jazz has to develop to stay alive....
I approached this gig with misgivings, rather in the mindset of my forebears, the Mouldy-Figs, trad jazz fans who waged war against the beboppers.
The traditional jazz I love came from artists like Rollins, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Mingus, Getz, Evans and Hancock, musicians of daring imagination and fantastic swing.
Since, half a century later, their work remains influential despite the incorporation of free jazz, jazz-funk, world music and Euro jazz into the vocabulary, why was I concerned? Because, as a conservationist, I worry about artists throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Too often now I experience an overly classical, academic approach to the music. Though technically impressive, it often doesn't swing and the tunes seem to me gloomy or unmelodic.
My views would be questioned by many but, I suspect, shared by many others. So why do I go to such gigs? It's because I admire people presenting new music and realise jazz has to develop to stay alive, as the careers of my heroes certainly show. What am I hoping for? Knowledge of the tradition, an ability to write and improvise melodically and to offer a range of colours and moods. And musicianship of the high order we take for granted today.
Luckily for the audience, all this was on display in Aquarium's performance at the Hive. There was superb rapport between leader Sam Leak and his band. The compositions were absorbing, often charmingly melodic. The improvising was imaginative, drawing on a wide range of styles and the performances, though far from strident, were full of feeling. Leak's playing was thoughtful, incisive and unshowy, his evident pianistic skills serving each piece. Saxophonist Allsop shaped several exquisite solos. Remarkably, the band's other regulars were absent, replaced for the night by Ryan Trebilcock (bass) and James Maddren (drums) - as good a pair of deps as you could find - who created an insistent, subtle swing. Many of the pieces were from the band's soon to be released second album. I plan to buy it.
With this music, the baby definitely remains in the bath - smiling and dancing.