Jazz at The Bonded Warehouse

Reviews 2018

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Ralph Allin Quartet - 14 December 2018

By Ian Scott


Ralph Allin Quartet

14th December 2018

Popular jazz violinist Ralph Allin made a welcome return to the Bonded Warehouse, accompanied by Al Gurr on piano, Ben Markland on bass and Steve Street on drums.

Ralph plays the violin with a lovely resonant tone and is at once melodic and rhythmically exciting. To anyone uncertain about the violin in jazz I say: go and see Ralph Allin and listen to great jazz. And it is always good to see Al Gurr and wonder at his marvellous two-handed piano playing. Ben Markland provided solid backing on bass and Steve Street was clearly tuned into what the rest were doing, providing the right accompaniment whatever the mood.

The programme included a couple of gypsy dances and other crowd-pleasing virtuoso pieces for violin. But mostly we had a selection of well-known standards. Ralph said he looked for songs with good melody; and that was apparent. A different take on 'Honeysuckle Rose' early in the first half set the tone for the evening. It was taken at a cracking pace, with Al Gurr striding through a characteristically well built solo. A delightful version of 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' had a lovely inventive solo by Ralph, taking the tune into some whole new places.

Into the second half, the 'Theme From Notting Hill' (She) produced some very nice slow/medium violin. And 'Misty', taken at a swinging medium tempo, was notable for an excellent solo by Al Gurr and nice interaction with Ben Markland's bass. It all built to a conclusion with some wild virtuoso violin, percussive piano and a fine drum solo by Steve.

The evening was helped along by Ralph's humorous intros. His increasingly contrived attempts to twist every song title into a Christmas theme brought groans and laughter in equal measure. But throughout, it was clear the audience really appreciated the music with shouts of 'beautiful', 'great' and the like after each number. All in all, it was an evening of swinging, top-class jazz.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Steve King Big Band - 9 November 2018

By Ian Scott


Steve King Big Band

9th November 2018

The audience braved atrocious weather to pack the Bonded Warehouse for Steve King and his professionally presented big band. No doubt the opportunity to hear jazz played by an ensemble of this sort in intimate surroundings proved popular. But the line-up and versatility of the musicians meant this was no run-of-the-mill big band performance.

From the top, the four trumpets, sometimes augmented by Steve, all doubled on flugelhorn. To go with three trombones there was the added depth of a bass trombone and tuba. The five reeds, nominally two tenor, two alto and a baritone sax, could all switch to an array of alternatives from bass clarinets to various flutes, including a lovely sounding alto flute. So, in addition to the multi-layered tones usually associated with a big band, this ensemble produces an almost infinite variety of musical texture. And all this was propelled by a five-piece rhythm section comprising keyboard/piano, guitar, bass/electric bass, tuned percussion and drums.

The arrangements, drawn from a wide range of sources, and the varied playlist also contributed to the vitality of the band's music. From the opening 'Bluesette' we had a mix of unusual and familiar material from modern popular music to film themes to standards to the complex demands of 'Night in Tunisia'. All done with originality and plenty of fine solos from around the band.

Vocalist Lynn Dawes joined the band for three numbers in each set. A singer with a personality as powerful as her voice, she is just what you want in front of a big band. Not that there was any loss of musicality in Lynn's powerhouse performance, especially evident on a couple of nice ballads. The standout was a very different approach to the old chestnut 'Fever', nothing like the hackneyed versions we have come to expect.

No doubt it takes hard work, concentration and musical skill to deliver jazz of this quality from a large ensemble. We should be grateful to Steve King and his band for being prepared to devote their time and energy for our enjoyment. I'm sure it was a thoroughly satisfied audience that made its way back out into the miserable night.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Wendy Kirkland Quartet - 12 October 2018

By Ian Scott


Wendy Kirkland Quartet

12th October 2018

Wendy Kirkland made a welcome return to the Bonded Warehouse. We last saw her in April accompanying Sue McCreeth, but this time it was leading a quartet playing her own distinctive brand of jazz. Husband Pat Sprakes also returned, resplendent in a new velvet jacket, playing guitar instead of double bass. Mike Green provided the rhythm on double bass tonight, along with Jon Richmond who had travelled down from Lincolnshire to play drums again.

The quartet did not disappoint with a full programme led by Wendy's hip vocals and solid jazz piano with a bluesy feel. Not surprisingly, there was impressive interplay with Pat's guitar throughout; and firmly swinging rhythm from Mike and Jon. This was all helped along by Wendy's excellent rapport with the audience, and the way she talked about the songs, arrangements and artists who have influenced her.

The lengthy playlist drew widely for its material from composers as different as Bernstein, Jobim and Peter Nero, and featured songs from Wendy's very well received CD 'Piano Divas'. Hank Williams' song 'Hey Good Lookin' had some nice, bluesy piano and guitar interplay with light hearted vocal exchanges at the close. A bossa nova style version of Tom Jones' hit 'It's Not Unusual', with a cool swinging arrangement, was particularly well received. And a lovely 'Some Other Time' showed especially good band chemistry, nice piano/guitar and good brush work by Jon.

Into the second half we had Wendy and Pat's own composition 'Bahia' (inspired by Brazil but written in Portugal) and taken at a surging tempo. A marvellous 'East of the Sun', based on a Diana Krall arrangement was a gently swinging opportunity for good soloing by all band members. Also notable was an uptempo version of the Herb Ellis classic 'Detour Ahead'. And so I could go on, but suffice to say the group delivered the quality those who know her music have come to expect from Wendy.

Although much of the material is familiar the quartet gave it their own distinctive take and gave us an enjoyable evening of accessible, swinging music with a touch of originality - good jazz in other words.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Paul Sawtell Quartet - 14 September 2018

By Ian Scott


Paul Sawtell Quartet

14th September 2018

The Autumn season of Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse began with a visit from the Paul Sawtell Quartet. Paul was returning to the town of his birth and to the Bonded Warehouse after an absence of several years. Tonight, he played vibes - his other instrument is piano - accompanied by an excellent trio of musicians: Al Gurr on piano, Bill Coleman on double bass and Miles Levin on drums.

Paul, using four mallets mostly, and Al produced a continual stream of ideas, both melodic and percussive. Al Gurr showed why he is simply one of the best pianists around, gently nudging soloists along and showing an impressive technique to produce varied and inventive solos with strong rhythmic feel. They were ably supported by Bill on double bass and just the right dynamic from Miles on drums, swinging beautifully from first to last.

The programme comprised an array of well-known tunes from the best of composers, including Duke Ellington and Fats Waller from jazz; and Richard Rogers and Jerome Kern from popular music. From the first set, I'll mention Ain't Misbehavin', taken at a relaxed up-tempo. And from the second set, when they noticeably moved up a gear, the quartet really stretched out on My Romance, with fine solos by all. But really much the same could be said about any number from the programme. Paul's vibes, with an almost horn-like sound at times, and Al's dazzling piano combined to give a different feel to some great compositions and produce jazz of the highest quality.

From the first few bars it was clear that this was going to be an evening of live jazz at its best: a highly enjoyable start to the Autumn season that augurs well for the months ahead.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Alison Rayner Quintet - 13 July 2018

By Ian Scott


Alison Rayner Quintet

13th July 2018

This was a first visit to the Bonded Warehouse by the London-based band, led by bassist and composer Alison Rayner. The quintet has been together for a long time, and it showed in a thoroughly absorbing and exciting evening of live jazz.

Up front on saxophones, Diane McLoughlin treated us to some clear-toned tenor and edgier soprano. Not an easy instrument the soprano, but Diane played with a lovely tone and strong melodic feel. Dierdre Cartwright played guitar, nimble fingered in both solo and support. On piano Steve Lodder was a revelation for me. Technically impressive, he alternated long beautifully intricate lines with percussive two-handed block chords. Buster Birch drove proceedings and complimented the front line with a lively but never over-powering performance around the whole drum-kit.

But this was first and foremost a group performance. What impressed me was the way they built tension and excitement, both in the solos and the ensemble work. The interplay between horn, guitar and piano was joy. We got much more than just solos with accompaniment. And all this was led superbly by Alison and her sonorous bass.

The programme was entirely made up of original compositions, mostly by Alison plus contributions from other group members. It says much for the quality of the composition that I did not long for a familiar standard or two, doubtless helped by the rich variety. We had sensitive and reflective on numbers such as the beautifully executed 'Braw Boy'; groovy numbers like the Indian inspired 'Trunk Call'; and swinging up tempo numbers like 'May Day'.

This was a fitting conclusion to the 'Ladies in Jazz' season, organized for our delight by Devon Harrison. It was clear tonight that the ARQ were having a good time performing for our pleasure. And I'm sure it was a pleasure for the audience too.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Zoe Gilby Quartet - 8 June 2018

By Ian Scott


Zoe Gilby Quartet

8th June 2018

Continuing the 'Ladies in Jazz' season, we had a first visit to the Bonded Warehouse by the Zoe Gilby Quartet. Zoe on vocals, Mark Williams on guitar, Andy Champion on double bass, and Richard Brown on drums gave us a nicely balanced programme of excellent jazz that really connected with the audience. The quartet had travelled down from their base in Newcastle upon Tyne just for the gig. But this did not affect the vitality of their performance. Zoe provided the lead with her engaging personality and strong vocals, notable for the way she can evoke a mood, a sense of place and tell a story.

The quartet delivered a most cohesive performance. To go with Zoe's vocals we had accomplished guitar solos from Mark Williams, impressive technically and with good melodic feel. Andy Champion laid down a solid bass line and Richard Brown was superb, unobtrusively driving the proceedings with tasteful drumming and just the right dynamic.

The material they covered was a revelation, at least for me but I suspect the audience too. Zoe's advertised use of contemporary pop music gave me some anxiety. I needn't have worried. Zoe's talent for taking unlikely material and making it her own is just what jazz musicians have always done. The Thin Lizzie tune 'Dublin' and the 'Theme from Peaky Blinders' were especially well received. Each set included well known jazz pieces and some compositions of their own with finely crafted lyrics and music. Of the former, we heard 'Caravan' and 'West Coast Blues', complete with crowd-pleasing improvised lyrics about the Bonded Warehouse'. For me the standout was Monk's 'Straight No Chaser'. Many top musicians have avoided Monk's music over the years, wary of its difficulty. But this group gave his song a great workout, memorable for Zoe's mastery of Monkian melody and harmony, and a beautifully constructed bass solo from Andy. They finished the evening with a stunning performance of their original composition 'Red City' (Marrakesh), evoking a strong North African feel.

I have to declare an interest: the Quartet come from my hometown, and using Monk's music is leaning on a open door with me. But I was not alone. The audience were clearly impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. As one of them put it on leaving: "You're a bostin wench". Exactly. And thank you to Devon Harrison for finding this group and bringing them to the Bonded Warehouse.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Patsy Gamble Quartet - 11 May 2018

By Ian Scott


Patsy Gamble Quartet

11th May 2018

Friday the 11th May saw a return visit to the Bonded Warehouse, Stourbridge by the Patsy Gamble Quartet. Patsy, mainly on alto but also on tenor with some vocals thrown in, was supported by John Broomhall on keyboards, Mark Butler on bass and Seamus Denver on drums. They produced two thoroughly enjoyable, bluesy sets over a variety of material that went down very well with the audience.

Any notion that this might be an evening of R&B with honking sax and pounding on the keyboard could not be further from the truth. No, the quartet gave us proper, up to date blues based jazz. Patsy plays expressive sax with strong melodic lines - more edgy on the alto which I especially enjoyed. But the tenor was equally good, as was the rapport with John Broomhall who gave us some delightful solos.

The more bluesy numbers included a couple of Stanley Turrentine compositions, especially the excellent Sugar - groovy with some passionate alto and swinging in the best tradition of Blue Note and the heyday of hard bop. Among a selection of standards, All The Things You Are showed both tenor and keyboard to good effect. Also notable was a lovely tribute to Barbara Thompson, where the quartet stretched out at slow/medium tempo, with Patsy on alto and John showing some deft touches on the keyboard. Add to all this some of Patsy's own compositions from the latest CD - Warsaw Nights - to make up a nicely balanced programme which delivered all you want from an evening of live jazz.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Sue McCreeth Quartet - 13 April 2018

By Ian Scott


Sue McCreeth Quartet

13th April 2018

Friday the 13th proved lucky for those who went to the Bonded Warehouse, Stourbridge. They were treated to night of great jazz from a quartet of talented musicians led by accomplished vocalist Sue McCreeth. This was only the second time this group had played together, but that probably added to the immediacy of their performance: live jazz in the making. Sue ranged across a variety of often challenging material with songs by Ray Noble and George Gershwin, through Horace Silver to Wayne Shorter, plus a couple of her own compositions and a remarkable improvisation on a piece by one F Delius.

Sue's mellow vocals, maintained throughout the scales, were ably supported by Wendy Kirkland's swinging, bluesy piano, Pat Sprakes on a proper double bass and Jon Richmond on drums. They just got better as the night wore on, probably helped by the rapport between performers and a good-sized audience. A couple of standouts for me were God Bless the Child, a song not for the faint hearted given Billie Holiday's definitive version, and Twenty First Century Blues which was given a rocking up-tempo treatment with good work by all and a well-built piano solo from Wendy. I've mentioned these two songs but I could just as easily have picked others.

They say great jazz is transient: you have to be there to hear it. Once again Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse proved it is very much on the up.

(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)

Reviews 2019
Reviews 2018

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