13 April 2013

Two tenors

This was not ten tenors, but it was two tenor saxophonists and it was instructive. Dirk Zeylmans was playing with Richard Gawked. This was a blowing session on well-known jazz standards, comfortable and relaxed, but the playing had the edge of amiable competition that is inevitable and valued in these outings. What I noticed most was the difference in tone and approach of the two tenors. Dirk is smooth and flowing, soft and languid in soloing. I guess he’s influenced by the intimacy of Stan Getz or the like. Richard was harder, bluesy, laid way back, metallic sounding. Someone mentioned Dexter Gordon. When they soloed they were personal expressions and this was interesting. But even more so when they played together on a head, one playing a melody and the other responding with tags or counterpoint, you could feel the different sounds but they merged easily. These are both richly experienced players and it shows. It also showed in their presence on stage, very relaxed although always aware and ears more open than eyes for each other’s performance. It was a mild night and the doors were open to Hippo’s new balcony and they often retreated to stools out back. The playing was serious, of course, but it looked nonchalant in typical jazz style. How could you not like it? The others were no slouches, either. Graham Monger with his crisp and swinging and chord-spelling guitar playing. James Luke doing some great solos with easy technique on double stops and thumb positions and the rest and a sax-like flair for melody. Also John Clark, a steady drummer with a dramatic rock sensibility of extended rolls and strong dynamics in the one solo that I heard. We’ve heard all the tunes before and if anything this makes it a more friendly outing: bop blues, bossa, easy swing, Miss Jones, Night & day, Blue bossa. This was a lovely night of tunes we know and love and an instructive combination of two tenors.

Dirk tells me he’s taking nights at Hippo every month or so with invited horn players. Get to them if you can. These nights are our jazz legacy. Dirk Zeylmans (tenor) invited Richard Gawked (tenor) to play with Graham Monger (guitar), James Luke (bass) and John Clark (drums).

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