30 November 2018

Doing the job, very satisfying

Professionalism is something I particularly notice and value. It's a response from musos who try hard at this stuff and realise how difficult it can be. Whatever, I see it in Steve Richard's bands and I enjoy it immensely. Steve was back with his quartet at Smiths with Steve's arrangements and just two practices under their belts and a sharp, neat presentation of some entertaining and varied materials. That's what professionalism is. His offsiders were Sally and Barney and Lauren. Lauren on tenor was new to me: jokingly, Steve called her his secret. Apparently, she's recently back from hotter climes. I particularly liked her on some cool Miles but she was consistently accurate and satisfying, spelling out charted melodies neatly and laying out some intriguing solos. I think of Sally primarily as a composer but she's a jazz pianist of note enriched by her composition training which is evident in her playing. It's a different conception: big and wide. She told me she thinks of parts, of a big band or orchestra. I could hear that complexity and fullness, in melodic and improvisational concept, but also in richness of expression. Truly a fascinating and rich picture. Barney on bass was just his professional best at reading and interpreting, but he let go in ways I haven't heard from him before, with chromatics and hammerons at speed that were thrilling but also harmonically intricate. And Steve. I've played with him and can only admire that calm visage that hides training and skills that express themselves in sharp and intelligently varied exploration of time, splitting beats into parts, then parts further, the neatest rudiments with tone and that joyful cowbell that he enjoyed so much on this gig. Apparently it's a new acquisition. We got a few laughs there; very much with not at him. And a great collection of tunes, from Bird through pop arranged in jazz ways, like Bad Plus-ish Everybody wants to rule the world and Sting and Mark Knoffler, through locals including tunes by Sally and Miro and a few drummers, Manu Katche and Bernard Purdy, into touches of contemporary and free from Stefon Harris. A fascinating collection but also entertaining and contemporary. Did I say I liked this outing? I did, very much.

Steve Richards (drums) led a quartet at Smiths with Lauren Thurlow (tenor), Sally Greenaway (piano) and Barnaby Briggs (bass).

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