1 October 2018

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon was free so a jazz target. My worthy and seemingly comprehensive Jazz live in London site and app (recommended) offered several options. My choice required a train trip to East Croydon. It’s not really so far, but this is a big town and the Tube doesn’t do it all. I was happy with the choice. A lovely old pub, busy with jazz followers but also locals out to celebrate birthdays, a seat with some of the aficionados up front and a truly satisfying band with serious chops. This was the Stefanos Tsourelis Trio with the addition of Tony Woods. Stefanos leading from oud and acoustic guitar and the composer of the music. Tony on tenor and soprano, Dave on a woody Warwick e-bass and Eric on sharp, snappy drums. The trio had recorded a CD and were selling it. Sit-in Tony was obviously but capably reading. I liked the oud with its snappy picking and sharpness. It’s a fretless neck so tone is softened while chunky and slides are a feature. But most noticeable is the rhythmic play, all quarter notes and sudden sixteenth note fills. It’s a style Stefanos took also on guitar, also acoustic if amplified, also thuddy and prominent. I loved the effect. Dave fitted well with this vibe, mostly finger-funk sixteenth notes with nicely adventurous play over the neck, but also slap to percuss and thumb to cajole and just occasionally some effects, notably octaver. Stefanos also toyed with octaver later. Eric on drums was similarly sharp, similarly ready to snap to quick repetition. And how nicely did his solos develop within accompanying ostinatos. Tony was adventurous if less repetitively rhythmic. Not so much speedy as investigative, if with flourishes every now and then. Intelligent, seeking, touching: this was some beautiful and satisfying playing with real honesty. Nice reading too. I wondered where to place all this. There’s Mediterranean influences with oud and related stylisms, but the bass shouted funk and quick common unison lines sounded of jazz-rock and the sax was pure and deeply satisfying modern. I paint a melange (like much else in music these days) but maybe it gives a picture. Whatever, I was grooving in my seat. It was infectious, too. But then, it was also a nice environment. Low ceiling timbers and local ales on tap and huge plates being brought out for lunch. Tats and tees but also families and aficionados. It was a welcoming and comfy scene as well as a contemporary jazz venue. I was lucky to sit with Richard and Peter and Jean; up front, good view, chatting to the band. Richard was recording so we could chat mics and processing. Peter praised me as an Australian who doesn’t drink lager (ha! but not just me: Australia is reasonably civilised these days). Jean collected for the band and introduced me to the guy who had set up my Jazz live in London app. So this was a community. Lovely. A great afternoon out in East Croydon. At the Oval Tavern. Cheers.

Stefanos Tsourelis (oud, guitar) led a quartet with Tony Woods (tenor, soprano), Dave Jones (bass) and Eric Ford (drums) at the Oval Tavern, Croydon.

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