Stan Sulzmann Big Band, Royal Northern College of Music. 17th July 2012.
A big band at the Manchester Jazz Festival is always something to look forward to, so an evening with the legendary Stan Sulzman plus some great players young and old was not to be missed. Sulzmann sounded a local resonance early in the set with an arrangement of Mike Walker's 'Clockmaker'. I've heard Walker play this in many guises, so it was really interesting to hear it another setting, this take being a little more upright than versions I've heard before. It's a tough call for a guitarist to stand in Walker's shoes on one of his own tunes, this possibly unsettling Alex Munk who's solo could have been stronger, but it was a brave crack. The band were also perhaps just a shade on the tentative side for much of the first set, but even so, many sweet sounds occurred, a version of John Parricelli's latiny 'Alfredo' being a good example.
The first set's highpoint was the lightly grooved Kenny Wheeler composition, 'Jigsaw', the band getting up to speed at this point, with some lovely improvising all round. Other tracks that really caught my ear were the Sulzman composed ' Chow Chow', and a thoughtful take on one of Gwilym Simcock's tunes, 'I Know You Know'. This wasn't one of those concerts that imposed itself on you with strident dynamics, in your face improvising, nor were there any ear-brow raising harmonic kicks. It was one that rewarded attentive listening with many quiet moments of happiness.