2 July 2014

Monk, Mingus, Duke

Gai Bryant led her quintet in a concert of classic jazz from the pens of Monk, Mingus and Ellington. It was a request of Geoff Page, who had booked the band, and a thing of pleasure. There were some great tunes here that are frequently played in jams but less frequently in concerts which tend to the original and contemporary. Perhaps one; seldom a program. The program was heavy on Monk with his quirky, jumpy material. Bemsha swing, Reflections and In walked Bud are standards. Think of one and Chimneys were less common. Ellington only appeared in one ballad, Prelude to a kiss, but his admirer, Mingus, featured with a few of his jaunty, sometime prickly, repertoire: Jelly Roll, Haitian Fight Song and Better git it in your soul. And Gai snuck in one errant tune: Peacocks, a ballad by Jimmy Rowles. So this was a pleasure but it wasn’t just a period piece. Gai herself was going to the dentist next day, so was none too comfortable playing sax. She apologised for her high notes and promised more inventiveness. No loss there. Inventiveness trumps chops any day. The band coalesced nicely as the night wore one, even if Gai looked increasingly uncomfortable. Paul played a heavy, determined style of drumming and soloing that fitted the era and the firm but rounded tone from Brendan. Brandan’s solos, especially in the second set, were stunners. Not dissonant adventures, but attractive lines and melodic quotes and waterfalls of notes in some truly stunning runs. I got that feel a few times with Danny, too. He played trumpet and trombone on the night. I laughed when he unexpectedly got the nod for a solo and a stream of clear notes fell from his trom before he settled into lovely melody, only to quote himself next time the chorus came around. But on this night, my ears were especially focussed on Jeremy, on guitar. His take on this music was a lesson in re-imagination, with chords that spelt strangely dissonant, but not jarring, colours that meandered behind solos and took form in solos. He spoke later of influences from Scofield and Frisell and of dropping the harmony-defining third and toying with 2nds and 6ths and neither was a surprise. So there was swing and the melodies were spelt honestly, but there was a contemporary air to this all: tunes as vehicles as much as artefacts. Lovely. A great night of some old favourites and a few oldies that I didn’t know so well and lots of honest, capable playing.

Gai Bryant (alto, soprano sax) led a quintet with Danny Carmichael (trombone), Jeremy Sawkins (guitar), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Paul Derricott (drums) playing a tribute to Monk, Mingus and Ellington at the Gods.

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