First of all, a retrospective (OK, a look backwards then), on last Thursdays Hedsor Jazz with Tracey Mendham.
Initially, the day didn’t start well! Clive had booked his passage on a riverboat trip, thinking he would be off the boat in time to join us for the majority of our session at Hedsor with Tracey. Unfortunatly, the boat must have crossed a time zone, as the boat docked at 9pm, not 8pm! This had an unfortunate knock on affect, as HE had the raffle bag, and the PA. OK, we managed to resolve the PA by borrowing Michael Weinblatts (Ta Muchly). The raffle prizes were promised to be withus by 9.45pm, so, no panic then.
Tracey, who travels from South Ockenden, then got cought up in a bad day at the M25 and again mild panic, but travel was eventually resumed in time.
BUT, on the plus side, our room was full, and for the first half Tracey put on a stella performance with our rhythm section of Geoff Clarke keyboard, Ken Rankine bass, and Martin Hart drums. Her brand of tenor playing (meaty, but she is a vegetarian!) was equalled only by her laugh and vibrant personalty.
Clive managed to get a few notes in sideways upon his return, and at the end of the evening, Tracey had sold a number of copies of her CD “The Orphan Manuscript”, and we all had an grin on our faces as we left. A wonderful evening of entertainment for your £5, and some of you went home with a raffle prize as well.
Next Thursday our guest is Don Wright, another saxophone player with a big tone, and notes to match.
Now another retrospective.
Saturday I went to The Ealing Jazz Festival, something I have now managed to do for the last 3 or so years. It is always great fun, well organised, with excellent jazz content. This Saturday was no less enjoyable than in previous years, despite the increase in both admission charge and the cost of the beer! We are approaching Marlow Crown Plaza money for the booze there now AND you can only get in 4 cans of bought out alcohol (your bag is searched!).
First up in the main tent was Gill Cook, a very slim blond singer with a great talent. I had only listened to one of her CD’s before, but she is a very talented lady, and she had an excellent band with her consisting of Jamie O’Donnell – Alto Saxophone, Nick Tomalin – Piano, Dominic Howells - Double Bass, and Paul Cavacuiti – Drums. An unexpected pleasure for the start of a jazz day.
Next on, after ½ hours reset time was Xantone Blacq’s Brazilian Connection featuring Gui Tavares. Lots of bells and whistles, but not really my scene. If my memory is correct, this band were a better experience last year and I must admit to taking a break for coffee and cake during this set.
Next onto the main arena stage was the Adrian Macintosh Quartet. This was basically the old Humph rhythm section plus Ron Drake on Tenor and clarinet. Excellent, and again I was surprised at how good they were. They swung, and Ted Beaumont on piano sounded remarkably like Gene Harris. John Rees-Jones - was on the Double Bass. Straight ahead jazz, played superbly, and it got the full appreciation of the audience, who would have been happy to have heard more.
I would point out at this stage that the audience at Ealing are not your usual jazz fans. Yes, they are there as well, but so too are local families out for a sunny afternoon in the park with children and an idea that sun, sand (well, very dry grass) plus the available hooch, was a recipe for a great social gathering, which it was. So, for the uninitiated to have stormed for more at the close of the Adrian MacIntosh set was quite something.
Slightly more understandable was the great reception for Nick Mills and The Blue Note Project. Here some truly wonderful soloists played very recognisable tunes. It was nice to see some old friends from Hedsor and Cookham playing for this group, made up of Nick Mills – Trombone, Freddie Gavita – Trumpet, Vasilis Xenopoulos - Tenor Saxophone, Kit Downes – Piano, Mark Rose - Double Bass, Matt Home – Drums.
Lastly, as the light faded from the park, up on stage came Liz Fletcher with a very star studded band. She looked a million dollars (or a million of whatever currency you feel safe with these days), stunning in a red dress, with matching hat. The band were not Georgina Jackson – Trumpet as stated on the web program, but a good (male) trumpet player non the less, Alison Neale – Saxophone and Flute, Jim Mullen – Guitar, not Gareth Williams – Piano as stated on the program, but again a very competent player, Adam King - Double Bass, and Sebastian De Krom – Drums.
For me, this set just didn’t work. The main bulk of the audience loved it, but to play well known jazz tunes to a funky/rock backbeat simply doesn’t work for a jazz audience. It wasn't helped by the sound system, which produced a very messy sound and I could not hear the saxophone at all. (I was 4 rows back).
The arrangements for such an experiment are going to be complicated, and the band appeared under rehearsed. Only one tune was played in 4/4 time, and to hear Duke Ellington’s “It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing” played with a non swinging back beat was painful. Jim Mullen I think was the only instrumentalist who managed to make anything he soloed on sound reasonable.
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise great day. Liz has done so much better on previous occasions, and she did ask at the beginning of her set to let her know if we liked it, because she has an album coming out with these arrangements. Well, now I have, sorry.
Next time I blog, there will be a review of Vasilis Xenopoulos’s new album. Yes, at long last he has a CD out on 33 records. More of that next time.