Saturday, July 31, 2010

Passion, Grace and Fire - Manchester Jazz Festival Day Four

Arun Ghosh Quintet, Stuart McCallum and Simcock/Walker/Swallow/Nussbaum, Band on the Wall.

mjf introduces: Sam Rapley/Adam Chatterton Quintet, Festival Pavilion. Monday 26th July 2010

This was the first of the 'mjf introduces' series of mid afternoon concerts showcasing new jazz talent from around the UK. A great start it was too from the Sam Rapley/Adam Chatterton Quintet playing some classic straight ahead standards. I've seen this group a few times now, and they always do a cooking version of Wayne Shorter's 'Witch Hunt', today being no exception. Trumpet player Chatterton's solo was strong and strident, and there some nice prodding outside the harmony soloing from piano player Mathis Picard.

The band have a great affection for the tunes of the great Kenny Wheeler, treating us to a take on his 'Everybody's Song But My Own'. They captured the typically Wheeler wistfulness really well with thoughtful solos from Sam Rapley on the sax, and Chatterton on flugelhorn. Drummer Calum Lee continues to get better all the time, being strong and fluid throughout, and bass player Tom McCredie got a chance to show us his mettle on the vulnerable sparsity of 'Blue in Green'.

It was over to the Band on the Wall in the evening for BBC Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 live broadcast with the Arun Ghosh Quintet, a solo premiere from Stuart McCallum and the Simcock/Walker/Swallow/Nussbaum group. There was a really fantastic buzz in the place for this slightly different to a normal gig setup. It was interesting in itself to observe how Jazz on 3 go about organising things so that a concert can go out live over the air. There was a little rehearsal for us the audience, so we knew when the show was actually live, and it was interesting to see the Jazz on 3 team doing their best to cue the bands in for the end their set. Not easy.

Arun Ghosh can be pretty intense any night of the week, so not unsurprisingly he was really fired up for this one, the band delivering a whirlwind of a set leaving the audience stunned. Corey Mwamba on vibes and Myke Wilson on drums played with such force I'm surprised their respective instruments survived the session. The sheer energy kick of this performance alone was enough to make it hugely enjoyable, but it did come at the expense of the music to a certain extent, the brooding darkness of the usually majestic 'Uterine' in particular being somewhat lost through a slightly overcooked performance.

It was up to Stuart McCallum to prevent the intensity levels from getting out of hand with his premiere ambient loop suite, something he managed expertly. It was classic dreamy McCallum complete with echoey washes of sound over some simple repeating sequences. The piece is intended to be a response to the over-complexity that much of jazz exhibits, and the simple and fairly static harmony reflected this aim well.

Guitarist Mike Walker's contemplative solo introduction to 'Clockmaker' continued the reflective mood for a few minutes more before the band joined in for the warming tune melody. Legendary bass player Steve Swallow was straight in for a delightful melodic and quite guitary solo. Next up was pianist Gwilym Simcock's 'You Won't be Around to See It' based on the idea of Swallow's 'Real Book' album that takes the chord sequences to standards and puts new melodies to them, in this case to 'Softly As In A Morning Sunrise'. The edgy angular head section of the tune soon gave way to a gorgeous bluesy groove. Walker never misses the chance to make the most of these opportunities, and dug in with some sparkling pinched harmonics and arpeggio flourishes. Simcock took the track in a more swing feel direction opening the way for a cruising solo from drummer Adam Nussbaum.

The band rounded off with Walker's boppy 'Laughlines' counted in at such a high tempo by Walker that he almost outpaced himself on the complex tune head. Simcock matched the velocity with a blistering high energy solo, the track ending the evening on the high that it began. A good one in the bag for Jazz on 3 I think.

You can hear the broadcast for a few more days at the Jazz on 3 website.

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