Thursday, 26 April 2018

Gomez 20 Years of ‘Bring it On’ Celebration Tour, Rock City, Nottingham – support by John Smith – 25th April, 2018

Still Standing

This won’t take long in conveying the great joy and buzz of seeing this gig, first and foremost going with one of my daughters who reminded me that apart from our father/daughter link and broad share of musical likes, we had each independently bought Gomez’s debut album Bring It On back in 1998 and liked – loads. I recall liking most the bluesy/funk material, especially the throaty vocal of Ben Ottewell; she clearly loving it all as was proved last night with her singing along knowingly to every blistering track played at the wonderful Rock City venue in Nottingham.

The second and surprise treat was the support act. Not knowing who it was going to be, with the first slap and pluck on his acoustic guitar I turned and said keenly to my daughter – in the self-congratulatory reverie of personal apocalypse [I do tend to forget much as I get older] – that’s John Smith! The significance of this is we had seen him together in 2007 at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, supporting John Martyn, perhaps our closest musical share and great love. I have since reviewed Smith’s album Great Lakes here. His set was excellent: great guitar playing – and he had a superb slide guitar cameo with Gomez during their act – and his husky vocal soaring with warmth. 

Gomez opened their set with the first track Get Miles off that Mercury Music Prize winning debut album, and the evening was set with a stonking two decades’ turn-back to excellence. Everything that followed was superb, but again for me I enjoyed most the heavier material, often so funky in its grooves, and Ottewell especially on both vocal and feedbacked heavy guitar work. The band was remarkably tight and their individual singing as well as harmonising was perfection. And then there was the scorch of Rie’s Wagon, all sass and funk and beauty too. A stunning set that had a packed crowd in their own living reverie, this too joyous to watch as they danced and sang along throughout a memorable evening's performance. Highly recommended if you get a chance to see on the continuing tour.

I’d forgotten how young these guys were in 1998. They are yet young men and if I can still rock it for the second 20 year celebration, I’ll be there. But I will have that chair…

Far Out

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Melody Gardot - Live in Europe, album review

Live Excellence

In a competitive world of fine female vocalists, I have been occupied by a number that has not included Melody Gardot, for no particular reason other than you can’t listen to everything.

So I’m glad I came across this live album because she and the band and the performances are quite stunning, certainly demonstrating that the live medium is a perfect platform for her talents.

It’s all damn good. There are two long performances I will cite to illustrate: closer Morning Sun is a brooding twelve minutes of gospel-esque perfection, Gardot in gorgeous voice as well as some fine scatting and warble and soaring, piano and organ accompaniments building the jazzier edge of that gospel sound, horns buttressing. The percussive end with Gardot sweetly layered above is lovely.

The outstanding performance is the eleven minutes of The Rain, here the band in dynamic atmospheric mode, Irwin Hall on sax quite exemplary, and some scorching guitar work merged within. Cello by Stephan Braun. Brilliant.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Andy Hague and Ben Waghorn - The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club, Exeter, 19th April, 2018

Hot Jazz

In the UK, yesterday was the hottest in April for 70 years, though not in Devon – weatherwise, that is.

But it was hot with full sun all day. It was also hot and as usual at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club in Exeter last night where the house band heated it up expertly [read previous reviews here], and guests trumpeter Andy Hague and saxophonist Ben Waghorn burned up some great solos and then glowed warmly on a couple of sweet ballads.

Opening on Dexter Gordon’s Hanky Panky, the evening was set for a summery swirl of jazz, and for once I was sitting with the EDMC posse [yes, only members would know what that means but still cringe at the trendy nomenclature] next to an open window and door so cooled by the breeze as much as – excuse the paradox – the playing.

And whilst being playful, it would be remiss not to pause and seriously stress I can’t overstate the consistently stellar jazz played at this venue. This was further exemplified in the next two numbers, the standard The More I See You and then Jim Rotondi’s Voodoo – solos from all the players sustaining genuine heights and highlights.

The first balladic number of the set was Hague’s Tranquil Moment, a bossa nova with the sweetest horn harmonies, and this was followed by another Hague song Lost and Found where he and Waghorn delivered rousing solo spots.

After the break we were treated first to Ellis Marsalis' Swingin at the Haven, then to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Look to the Sky, a new arrangement by Hague who played flugelhorn – this number graced with a wonderful bass solo by Al Swainger, and there were some subtle sax and flugelhorn lines over the excellent keyboard of Craig Milverton.

This was followed by another Dexter Gordon, The End of a Love Affair, then another Andy Hague song, the beautiful Ballad for Someone. The night finished on Blue Mitchell’s I’ll Close My Eyes and Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa. I mention all of the songs played to demonstrate the rich range on the night, and because I made notes.