In many ways this is an easy review to write (apart from the headline):
Four very accomplished musicians who’ve worked together in the jazz field for over ten years.
Their previous vast experience as session musicians gives them all an ability to deliver on demand.
Herbie Flowers on bass and announcements is both energetic and funny. Is his middle name Zoe? He sets the mood of their performances in that respect. When complimented by members of the audience on the band’s performance, Herbie invariably replies on the lines of ‘Yes, it was fun’.
The band plays from a very large repertoire, to which they add little new material. They haven’t rehearsed for years.
They don’t play many gigs, fewer than ten a year. The theory is that they will stay in demand that way. It seems to be working!
So did this mean that they were the same as always? Not really - or to be more precise, not in every respect.
The programme for this visit was more ‘fusion’, a mix of jazz and rock music, than before. Perhaps they had read my programme notes! This change of emphasis was partly due to their choice of material and the volume of their amplification, but equally to Malcolm Mortimore’s somewhat louder, and more forceful, drumming than usual. This is a jazz situation – one musician’s mood driving the others. Malcolm really was outstanding – with a wonderful feature on Cuban Chant - and I will get him along to CJC as a drummer in more of a straight ahead jazz band.
Big Jim Sullivan is the band member most familiar to the CJC audience. He displayed his range and total command. It seems he can play simply anything and he does generally keep it simple! He rarely lapses into complexity for its own sake, even with his forays into the Metheny guitar style.
Derek Austin is a keyboards virtuoso and most of the evening’s music required keyboards rather than a piano. As a fierce advocate of the indispensability of a ‘proper piano’ to a jazz club, I sometimes feel a slight doubt (a rare emotion for me) when I hear what Derek can produce from keyboards. It was some consolation to learn, however, that the total value of Derek’s kit (hardware and software, including over a thousand samples) far exceeds that of our beloved piano. Derek did play a solo medley on the ‘real thing’ (about which he was very complimentary after the gig) and received perhaps the warmest applause of the evening.
Derek is also the composer of most of the band’s original material, with two numbers particularly memorable: Four Play (which Herbie enjoyed introducing and skilfully avoided the punch line) and the lovely Lucy, dedicated to Derek’s daughter.
In summary the band were excellent and were again received with tremendous warmth and affection. I enjoyed them immensely and, subject to their self-imposed limit on number of gigs, we will of course invite them back soon. At CJC they are guaranteed ‘house full’ signs. Our treasurer adores them.