Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Cookham Festival Jazz Night 20th May 2011

I listen to a lot of live jazz, I often write about it on “my” blog. I often seem to use words like “superb”, tremendous”, “great”. Most times, I feel these words to be true of the performance I have listened to. Last night, somehow none of these adjectives seemed at all appropriate. The quality of the music, and of the musicianship was totally superb and outstanding.

So, what, and who, did we hear?

Under the heading of “Vasilis Xenopoulos and His Xtet” I had been asked “What is an Xtet”?

Last night we found out.

From the back to the front all the musicians were world class players, who happen to try and make a living by playing jazz.

Drummer Matt Home is a regular with the house band at Ronnie Scott’s, and also with Matt Wates Sextet and the Nigel Price Trio.

Nigel Price was on guitar. His trio won the Parliamentary Award for Best Jazz Group in 2010.

Mark Rose on bass is a regular with both Vasilis and with singer Michael L Roberts bands.

Leon Greening was on keyboard. He is also a regular member of the prestigious Matt Wates Sextet.

Michael L Roberts, jazz tutor at Trinity Collage, is one of those unique people, a male jazz singer, who really does sing jazz.

And Vasilis. He is a master of music from Berkley Collage in Boston, the premier “university” for jazz musicians.

Individually they are remarkably talented. They came together as a group last night, and became one. An Xtet!

The music was modern jazz, today’s modern, with homage to past modern jazz tunes, but with a whole new perspective. It was Rocky, driving, with the complete band showing exceptional musicianship and cohesion. At times you honestly couldn’t tell which of the instruments were making the notes that others were including in their solo. And they were all equally great. Every solo was awe inspiring. Collectively, they were one of life’s “WOW” experiences.

It is a tribute to the appreciation that jazz now has in “The Cookhams” that the night was a sell-out. Matt Homes was surprised at how many people were there. He just didn’t expect that level of support. All the band enjoyed the evening, but did the audience?

All those great adjectives came back to me at the end of the evening from various members of the audience. “Extraordinary” was also added in to the collection. One lady was so full of joy at the end, that as the perceived organizer of the event she said I deserved a hug, which I dully got! Another of the audience said it was the best jazz gig they had ever been to. Someone said to me that the saxophone seemed to be an integral part of Vasilis, and not just an instrument to pick up or put down. He seemed permanently attached!

So, in my view it was a successful evening. People were smiling, which is the best tribute an evening of music can generate. Someone even said they would come again!

So Thank you Cookham Festival for letting me book the Xtet.

Geoff Cronin © 2011

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