Gary Kavanagh returned to CJC for this, his fifth visit – not
forgetting his outstanding contribution to last season’s groundbreaking Jazz Students Special concert at Chichester College. He is always enthusiastically received - due in part to his excellent trumpet skills but also, very important for a bandleader, because of his enormous enthusiasm. He has so much to be enthusiastic about with his latest project, his quintet making one of its first public appearances. With Gary were Allison Neale on alto sax, Dave Cliff on guitar, Dave Chamberlain on bass, and Matt Home on drums.
This was very much an evening of two halves, with the band settling quickly into a programme that mainly reflected Gary’s bebop style. For me the highlights of the first half were:
Hot House, which was made famous as a seminal track on the 1953 groundbreaking album Jazz At Massey Hall by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. The Jazz at CJC (!) version was, typically, somewhat more gentle and understated than the original version, which is an acknowledged masterpiece, but it was excellent in its own terms. It was already clear that we were in for an exciting evening.
The End Of A Love Affair, which was played at a fast tempo, with Gary’s extended solo especially impressive.
I will record here one of my interval notes: Dave Cliff is so musical - solos always fluent and appropriate to what’s happening in the rest of the band – in his supporting role he is so attentive - restrained good taste but never bland.
During the interval it was good to hear so many positive reactions to this kind of music. Our audiences are not known for pushing at the frontiers of jazz. A very intelligent comment from one of our members was that an audience like ours would, twenty years ago, have been shocked by music that tonight they thoroughly enjoyed.
Yes, the audience buzzed in anticipation as the musicians returned to the stage! I realised that the lights hadn’t yet been dimmed. I turned the switch in the bar and…
Every light in the room was out! Just for a second I thought it was something that I’d done but it was quickly established that the whole neighbourhood was in darkness due to a power cut. Fortunately the candles on the tables came into their own: they were no longer just an atmospheric touch; without them we would have been forced to abandon the gig. The musicians played on regardless with one exception, Dave Cliff, whose electric guitar was now unplayable. He left the stage and we were now listening to the Gary Kavanagh Quartet except that, towards the end of the evening, Dave Cliff returned to the stage to pluck the strings of his electric guitar for just one number in a duet with bassist Dave Chamberlain. Dave Cliff called for total silence ‘otherwise you won’t hear me’! They then played a fast blues that concluded to the loudest applause of the evening.
This was an excellent and unusual evening. I am convinced that this quintet will become a truly top band, certainly Gary’s best so far, if it works together regularly enough - one or two rough edges in written opening and closing passages seemed to be down to a lack of rehearsal in this new band. While Dave Cliff and Gary are both established players of long standing, Dave Chamberlain and Matt Home are building good reputations playing, singly and together, not only in young modern bands but also with musicians of the calibre of Alan Barnes, Dave Newton, and Jim Tomlinson. However, the revelation of the evening for me was Allison Neale.
Only seven years ago she was the flautist for NYJO. Now she is excelling in such good company. Clearly her inspirations are Paul Desmond and Art Pepper but there is a simple, direct but intriguingly personal approach that she brings to her alto playing, which fitted so well with Gary’s trumpet work. Gary told me after t