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Hill-Street Jazz Collective - 10 January 2020

By Ian Scott

 

Hill-Street Jazz Collective

10th January 2020

The Hill Street Collective is made up of musicians we have seen here before in other groups. Ian Hill on tenor and soprano sax, Steve Street on drums, Rich Hughes on piano and Mike Green on double bass a classic modern jazz line-up.

Collective is an apt name, as they play with rapport, invention and varied arrangements. Ian has a clear, relaxed style on sax, with a full tone maintained throughout the register. Rich is a pianist with a prodigious technique. Mike can be relied upon to provide a rock-solid bass to go with Steve's impeccable drumming and drive the rhythm along. All play with feeling for the music and are able to produce well-built, inventive solos that trade off each other.

The first set kicked off with 'On Green Dolphin Street', gradually building momentum. Then an original composition, 'Art For Art's Sake'. This had a real Jazz Messenger feel, with good solos from Ian and Rich plus a characteristic Blakey Press Roll or two from Steve. And so it continued.

In each set we had a number by the trio, allowing Rich to stretch out on piano. Two examples of jazz piano at its best. 'Tiko Tiko' had a lively latin feel and marvellous thematic development in the piano solo - shouts of 'wow' from the audience! Bass and drums weren't bad either with a strong duet between piano and drums.

We also had several ballads by the quartet. And I have to confess a fondness for slow ballads. They allow you to fully appreciate the skill of the musicians and quality of their music (swinging and maintaining momentum at slow tempo is not easy either). All were of a high standard; and none more so than the Collective's examination of 'Body and Soul'. A perfect source for beautiful melodic lines from Ian's tenor and equally inventive solos from Rich and Mike.

All this, and Devon joined in to add his vocal skills for a romp through 'Lullaby Of Birdland'.

The second set started and ended with a blues: Parker's 'Billie's Bounce' and Monk's 'Straight No Chaser'. The latter was an encore, loudly requested by a packed audience who had enjoyed top class live jazz throughout a varied programme of original compositions and standards.

By general consent this was one of the best nights of jazz here in a long time. Happy New Year.

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

 
Billy Thompson Gypsy Style Valentine's Special - 14 February 2020

By Frank Pizzey

 

Billy Thompson Gypsy Style

14th February 2020

Always a popular visitor, violin virtuoso Billy Thompson drew another big crowd to the Bonded Warehouse for his Valentine's night gig.

Kicking off in trio form with guitar and bass accompanying we were straight into Hot Club territory with 'All the Things You Are' featuring a nice guitar break from Andy Mackenzie. Next up, Ivor Aldred joined in on harmonica for a swinging version of 'All Of Me'. Then a change of mood with one of Billy's own compositions, 'Every Time I Close My Eyes'. Written for his wife this was slow and melodic with Billy exploring the full range of his electric violin, one long solo from start to finish, lovely. Back to pre-war Paris for 'Swing 39' with the Reinhardt line played on violin. Taken at a jaunty tempo this featured a harmonica break and then Billy taking some interesting melody diversions as the number drew to a close.

'Romanian Folk Fore' had Billy really sawing away at his instrument and was followed by the equally energetic 'Avalon' with great harmonica solo and Billy plucking the strings and bow tapping for percussive effect. The first set was brought to a thrilling climax with 'Manha De Carnival', starting slow with some nice Spanish flavour from Andy on guitar and quickening with solos from harmonica and from Greg Robley on electric 'double' bass. The whole piece brought to a rousing finale with Billy striding around the room and thrilling the crowd with some dazzling fiddling.

'Tchavolo Swing' opened the second set in jaunty gypsy style before JABW promoter Devon Harrison joined for a Valentine's Day rendition of 'My One And Only Love'. Ivor 'directed' the trio in a spirited performance of Vittorio Monti's 'Szadas' based on a traditional Hungarian folk tune with many mood changes and more virtuoso work from Billy.

Pausing to pay tribute to one of his music inspirations the late John Hiseman, Billy recalled his time with Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia before treating us to one of Barbara's compositions 'Little Annie Ooh' which provided a gentle and reflective interlude. Upping the tempo again 'Cherokee' was the opportunity for all to solo before getting underway with 'Blues Drag'. Always an audience favourite, this began at a leisurely tempo featuring some great bluesy guitar from Andy on his vintage Gibson semi acoustic. Then some great vamping from Ivor on harmonica as the intensity of this one really increased. Final number of the evening was 'Dark Eyes', another of Billy's tours de force and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. This Russian gypsy tune again featuring some excellent harmonica contribution just got faster and faster with Billy dancing energetically and running round the hall to earn a standing ovation from the packed audience. Once again, a fantastic performance from the Welsh violin wizard and his band and an unforgettable evening at the Bonded Warehouse.

(Frank Pizzey is a volunteer at Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse.)

 
Reviews 2019
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