Jazz at The Bonded Warehouse

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Simon Deeley Blue Haze Trio - 8 November 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Simon Deeley Blue Haze Trio

8th November 2019

Pianist, composer and founder, Simon Deeley, returned with his regular trio from the Welsh Borders: Simon on keyboard, Ian Cooper on bass guitar and Charlie Russell on drums. It was Simon who had the vision to start Jazz At The Bonded Warehouse some 19 years ago, and the persistence to run a successful venture until he handed over to Devon Harrison three and a half years ago. We all owe Simon a huge debt of gratitude.

The programme tonight was made up entirely of Simon's own compositions, mostly those on his three albums. With groovy up-tempo numbers, several latin-flavoured pieces in samba mode and some slower ballads, it was clear we were hearing varied, original work by an able composer. During a few, Simon switched the keyboard to organ mode for some passages. And Ian Cooper alternated between electric bass and a four-string amplified acoustic bass guitar – different.

Simon started with three groovy numbers which nevertheless had clear melodic lines building through the solos. I especially liked 'Soul Of The West' in this vein later on, notable for hypnotic left hand figures complemented by classy thematic development from the right hand. This is characteristic of Simon’s piano playing. Also heard to good effect on a couple of slow, reflective numbers, evocative of the Welsh hills where they were composed and clearly inspired.

Into the second set we had more of the same plus something a little different in the film theme styled 'Echo Gentle And The Gentle Echo'. The standout for me was the swinging, soul gospel piece 'Free Spirit' with its excellent piano solo and an interesting acoustic bass solo from Ian. The set finished with another of Simon's trademark samba pieces: 'Radnor's Blue Latin'. Charlie brought the evening to a climax with a powerful drum solo, never losing the rhythmic pulse as can happen.

Listening to original compositions puts certain demands on the audience, who lack familiar reference points in the music. But I'm sure that it was worth making the effort to enjoy some good, home-grown jazz.

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

 
Kim Cypher Quartet - 11 October 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Kim Cypher Quartet

11th October 2019

Making her debut at The Bonded Warehouse, popular saxophonist and vocalist Kim Cypher was accompanied by Chris Cobbson on guitar, Mike Green on bass and Mike Cypher on drums. Kim was immaculate in a classy black dress, and flower in her hair, clearing recalling one of her influences. The men too were smart and uniform in grey suits, white shirts and dark ties. The quartet appear together regularly and it showed, the cohesion extending to their music.

The programme comprised quirky takes on well-known numbers, some jazz standards and a couple of original compositions. Several were from the album 'Love Kim x', recently released. The first set was characterised by beautiful playing; the second set, by contrast, is best described as funky, hard driving but with no lack of musicality. This is apparent from the fact that Mike Cypher used brushes almost throughout the first set, and sticks in the second; and Mike Green changed to electric bass for most of the second set.

Kim began with an up-tempo 'The Nearness of You', with vocal and clear-toned tenor sax. There followed a slow, moody 'Soul Eyes' and earthy sax on 'Nothing Can Be Done'. Switching to alto, we had a rollicking version of 'My Little Suede Shoes', complete with 'Muppet' inspired audience participation. Kim certainly knows how to charm an audience. The prevailing mood continued with Kim on soprano sax for her own composition 'Hayley' – a lovely piece notable for beautiful guitar work by Chris.

Into the second set we had Kim alternating on alto sax and soprano sax, plus a couple of vocals. She started playing hard driving alto on a bluesy version of 'It's Magic'. Carrying on, I especially liked Chris’s composition 'A Time To Reflect, A Time To Forget', which had a calypso feel and singing soprano sax from Kim. On this and others, Chris showed why he is Courtney Pine's guitarist of choice, with lovely melodic and rhythmic feel allied to superb technique. The finale was a storming version of 'Baker Street', with Kim taking her alto sax places the original did not go; and an exciting guitar solo by Chris.

There was much spontaneous clapping by the audience during the finale and at other times. That speaks volumes: a thoroughly entertaining and varied evening of live jazz at its best.

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

 
Tom Hill Quartet - 13 September 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Tom Hill Quartet

13th September 2019

To start the new season of Jazz At The Bonded Warehouse, Tom Hill brought a feeling of his native California. Importantly, he also brought a trio of musicians to make an excellent quartet: Lee Jones on guitar, Al Gurr on piano, Tom on bass and Nick Millward on drums. Al is a regular visitor here and the others are well known from previous visits.

The evening was billed as a tribute to Wes Montgomery, and music associated with the master of modern jazz guitar predominated along with several standards. To do justice to the music of Wes Montgomery you need a guitarist of the highest quality; and in Lee Jones we were fortunate to have just that. Up front Al Gurr also provided the same levels of skill and invention on piano; while Tom and Nick gave us both a strong rhythmic pulse and significant solo contributions of their own.

The evening started with a highly charged rendering of 'Four On Six', with its tricky rhythm - 4/4 time superimposed over 6/8. It was soon clear that we had a quartet of musicians who were enjoying themselves and interacting to produce that spontaneity you only get with live jazz. An example was 'Twisted Blues', another difficult tune, with Lee weaving through the changes and Al alternating inventive melodic lines and exciting rhythmic ideas on piano. They complimented each other beautifully; backed by Tom's solid bass and Nick's precise and powerful drumming.

Tom gave us a couple of his hip vocals, one in each set, on 'Smack Dab in the Middle' and 'Sentimental Journey'. To bring us down to earth, Devon Harrison joined the quartet for a lovely 'Autumn Serenade'. Then in the second set Nick weighed in with a bluesy vocal on the madly swinging 'He's Got A Way With Women'. All this was linked by Tom's amusing links, including a couple of his 'bad' jokes – so bad you had to laugh.

A standout for me, not easy to choose, was a great up-tempo 'Unit 7', notable for fine guitar work from Lee and scintillating piano from Al. I mentioned that the musicians were enjoying themselves: so too the audience, who were treated to evening of jazz rich in musical talent and innovation. Just GRRREAT!

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

 
Alex Clarke Trio - 12 July 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Alex Clarke Trio

12th July 2019

Tonight, up and coming saxophonist Alex Clarke made a first appearance at the Bonded Warehouse. We expected a trio with Tim Amman on piano and Mike Green on bass. But Tim's son Adrian came along at the last minute to play drums as the Plus One. Alex played tenor on the majority of numbers and alto on four. She plays either horn with poise and assurance, producing well-built solos.

We got underway with 'Almost Like Being In Love' on tenor and 'Taking A Chance On Love' on alto; the latter building excitement at a slow/medium tempo. This brought us nicely to a series of tunes with real jazz pedigree, tunes associated with tenor sax greats: Tubby Hayes, John Coltrane and Bobby Wellins.

The music was clearly moving up a gear. An up-tempo version of 'My One And Only Love' was notable for lovely tenor, a fine piano solo and a bass solo that never lost the rhythmic pulse. The set ended with Alex on tenor and the trio soaring through 'Mirage' (Tubby Hayes).

Into the second set we had Alex playing flute on her composition 'Tres De Catorce'. It’s not easy to fill the room with the sound of a flute but Alex did so with apparent ease, belying a lot of hard work I'm sure. Apparently 'the flute rarely comes out of the box these days'. Pity.

Alex sat out for one of Tim's compositions, 'Solstice', by a piano-led trio which gave Tim a chance to display his pianistic skills. Indeed, the rhythm section provided swinging accompaniment throughout: with nice comping and lyrical solos from Tim; solid resonant bass and some nice solo passages from Mike; and some lively drumming from Adrian.

We finished the evening with a trio of numbers associated with Tubby Hayes, Phil Woods and Clark Terry respectively. The audience particularly liked 'A Sleeping Bee', starting with a slow statement of the theme before moving into an exciting up-tempo solo on alto.

Jazz At The Bonded Warehouse aims to provide live mainstream and modern jazz. Tonight the music touched both bases. It was also heartening to hear two good young musicians playing excellent live jazz, supported by two, shall we say, more experienced heads.

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

 
Dutch Lewis and the Select Trio - 14 June 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Dutch Lewis and the Select Trio

14th June 2019

Dutch Lewis, vastly experienced and versatile, brought an array of instruments to cheer the Bonded Warehouse audience on a day of atrocious weather. He had a saxophone section – alto, tenor and baritone – plus clarinet and a couple of flutes. And they say he plays more. Oh, and he sings as well.

The Select Trio joined him for tonight; familiar and welcome faces here: Geoff Skillings on keyboard – mostly in piano mode, Dave Etheridge on six-string electric bass - his fretless version this time, and Keith York on drums. They can be relied on to provide a solid rhythmic base and inventive solos. Apparently unrehearsed, Dutch brought a small library of Band Books to assist (usually it's iPads these days). This made for some amusing links between numbers; but once they started, the music was seamless, melodic and swinging.

The programme comprised mostly well-known pieces from jazz and popular music, all ideal vehicles for Dutch and the Trio. After a couple on tenor to start and then one with alto and vocal, came a lovely rendering of 'How Sensitive' taken at a slow/medium tempo and featuring Dutch on the long alto flute. Geoff played beautifully on the keyboard, in a horn-like mode that matched the mood and the sound of the flute perfectly. In contrast, an up tempo 'Tin Tin Deo' followed, featuring Dutch on baritone and great work all round. His baritone sound was, as on the other, instruments clear toned and expertly articulated.

The second set kicked off on alto with 'My Little Suede Shoes', followed by some tenor and baritone. Geoff gave us some delightful piano on 'Seronata', to go with solos from Dutch on baritone and some notably nimble bass from Dave, who made equally good contributions on most numbers. The standout for me was a pulsating version of 'Topsy' with Dutch on clarinet. Shades of Basie and Mintons - where the tune became appropriately 'Swing to Bop' – marvellous. Notable too for an intelligent drum solo from Keith to go with his superb drumming throughout.

Devon Harrison then joined in for an impromptu 'Lullaby of Birdland'; Dutch on flute. Then we were into 'It's a Pity to Say Goodnight'. It was. Just ask the audience, who were clearly cheered by an evening of top-class jazz.

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

 
Much Ado About Jazz - 10 May 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Much Ado About Jazz - Chris Gumbley and Al Gurr

10th May 2019

Regular visitors and firm favourites Chris Gumbley (reeds) and Al Gurr (piano) returned in an unusual duo format. This allowed for quieter, more intimate jazz in a programme they called 'Much Ado About Jazz'.

The programme comprised a mix of well-known standards, a couple of pieces from pop music and a TV theme. From the world of jazz we had two each from Brubeck and Ellington. Chris mostly alternated between alto sax and clarinet, but varied this with a single tune on soprano sax and bass clarinet respectively. Despite labouring under the burden of a cold and losing his voice, he still managed his ever-humorous intros.

The first set kicked off with 'Cheek to Cheek' (alto) and 'Fascinating Rhythm' (clarinet), setting the tone for the evening and quickly engaging the audience. Clearly Chris's instrumental voice was unaffected. The music gradually warmed up nicely, the set culminating with some lovely melodic clarinet on Bechet’s 'Petit Fleur' and eloquent alto on Brubeck’s lively 'Blue Rondo A La Turk'. Al – a one-man rhythm section – kept things swinging throughout, comping behind Chris or dancing across the keys to produce some delightful lines.

Al opened the second set with his (non-technical) explanation of how jazz works. Good fun. An improvised opening, based on three notes provided by the audience, led seamlessly into excellent solo piano on 'Don’t Get Around Much Anymore'. Chris then gave us a beautifully constructed alto solo on 'Take Five'. Some strong playing on clarinet followed, including 'China Boy' with reed and piano duetting. Then 'In a Sentimental Mood' found Chris exploring the melody in-depth on bass clarinet, before rounding off the evening with 'One Note Samba' and 'Ain’t Misbehavin'.

Tonight was a fine example of how good musicians can generate intensity, excitement and enjoyment with quieter, more intimate jazz. The audience certainly enjoyed the evening and were far from quiet in showing their appreciation.

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

 
Devon Harrison and his All Star Band - 12 April 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Devon Harrison and his All Star Band

12th April 2019

Devon 'Sweet and Deep' Harrison, back from a stint with English National Opera, turned his considerable vocal skills to jazz tonight. He was accompanied by Casey Green on tenor sax or flute, Geoff Skillings on piano, Dave Etheridge on six-string electric bass - a fretless version on some tunes - and Keith York on drums.

The evening got straight into a swinging groove with 'Alone Together', followed by a trio of Gershwin favourites including 'Summertime'; and then more from the Great American Songbook. Devon's velvety bass-baritone vocals weaved through this rich material with hip phrasing and nuanced rhythmic feel. In each set we were treated to a ballad taken at slow tempo. First, 'April in Paris', notable for a beautifully deep vocal and some excellent piano; then, 'You Are Too Beautiful' sung with real feeling.

The All-Star Band, together for tonight only, were clearly a good choice for this music. They helped Devon produce beautifully controlled swinging jazz – a compliment to the rhythm section. Up front Casey produced long lyrical lines on the tenor or flute, backed by Geoff's classy, inventive piano. And they gave us an instrumental in each set – 'All The Things You Are', notable for superb tenor and piano solos, and stretching out on Dexter Gordon’s derivative 'Fried Bananas'.

We continued in similar vein in the second set. Then four songs in, Horace Silver's 'Senor Blues' gave a different feel with driving rhythm, blues tinged vocal and rocking piano. 'Luck Be A Lady' followed with Dave showing his impressive technique on fretless bass. Keith's drumming had just the right input throughout, whether the music called for his lovely firm brushwork or more dynamic work with the sticks.

But the standout for me was Oliver Nelson's masterpiece 'Stolen Moments'. This is not an easy piece of music for vocalist and musicians alike: witness the false start – live jazz! Once underway it proved an ideal vehicle for Devon and the Band to give us some memorable jazz, notable too for Devon scatting an improvised duet with Dave’s bass.

'I Got Rhythm' closed the evening – an apt choice. The appreciative audience certainly got it, having enjoyed a top-class evening of live mainstream and modern jazz – which is precisely what JABW seeks to do. And, perhaps I can steal a moment here to mention the sterling work Devon does all year, often unseen, to the produce programmes of great jazz for us.

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

 
Simon Spillett Trio - 8 March 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Simon Spillett Trio

8th March 2019

Simon Spillett, master of the tenor saxophone, returned to the Bonded Warehouse after an absence of eight years – too long in my opinion. He normally works in a quartet, but tonight in a trio with Stuart Barker on bass and Miles Levin on drums.

The trio format may have been born of necessity here, but it does present particular opportunities - and demands - for the musicians. In the absence of a piano, the horn player can find greater freedom for improvisation. And the bassist and drummer need to do more than simply keep time, they need to fill the void left by the absence of a piano (or guitar). From the outset, this trio proved very much up to the challenge.

The trio jumped straight into 'Royal Ascot' – swinging with high energy and no little class. 'Modes and Blues' followed, another Tubby Hayes composition, taking us into the realm of 'chord-less music' as Simon put it. It was soon clear that Simon plays the tenor saxophone with a clear tone, edgy at times, that fills the room and demonstrates an expansive technique across the full range of his instrument. As befits an eminent writer about jazz, Simon gave us illuminating anecdotes and wry humour in his introductions.

In each set we were treated to a ballad: 'You're a Weaver of Dreams' and 'What's New' respectively. Both were beautifully played without a hint of sentimentality, the tenor with an intensity and invention that took the listener to places the writers could never have imagined. And 'What's New' had a lovely piece of unaccompanied tenor at the end.

The second set continued with a string of well-known compositions, including 'Alone Together' and 'Seven Steps to Heaven'. All were given a thorough work out by the trio, with excellent contributions from Stuart and Miles. On 'Alone Together' Stuart produced a lengthy innovative bass solo that swung throughout and certainly impressed me. 'Seven Steps to Heaven' was a feature for Miles, who in truth featured strongly throughout driving the music forward and providing powerful infills. The concluding number had the trio scorching their way through 'Oleo' by Sonny Rollins.

After such a breath-taking performance, I thought an encore unlikely – but encore they did. And the large crowd were clearly appreciative of three musicians working very hard to give us live jazz of the highest calibre.

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

 
Remi Harris - 8 February 2019

By Frank Pizzey

 

Remi Harris

8th February 2019

It was almost 'house full' at the Bonded Warehouse for the eagerly awaited return of Remi Harris who had first played the venue in 2016. The earlier gig had featured Remi with his trio but this time the guitar virtuoso was accompanied by Simon Smith on double bass.

Starting in familiar Hot Club style we were treated to swinging performances of 'Pennies From Heaven' and 'Topsy' before Remi and Simon got into a very bluesy groove with 'Cissy Strut'. Originally by The Meters, this New Orleans funk classic had Remi stamping out the beat and smacking his guitar for percussive effect.

Switching to 12 string, the rich ringing tones sounded especially effective on 'Nature Boy' which also featured a nice bass solo from Simon and ended with a distinct delta blues feel. 'Just Friends' and 'Caravan' followed with the latter performed with some gypsy jazz style string picking.

So to the electric guitar and Remi spoke about his earliest enthusiasm for rock and blues. Cue an absolute 'blues fest' to close the first set with an extended Peter Green tribute starting with 'Rollin Man' which segued into 'Need Your Love So Bad' and featured some terrific string bending from Remi with Simon thumping out the beat on bass.

A lovely melodic version of 'Skylark' opened the second set before a quite funky 'Sweet Georgia Brown' followed by 'There Will Never Be Another You'. There was a nice use of 'effects' for McCartney's 'Here, There And Everywhere' and then 'Can't Help Falling In Love' at which point Remi switched to baritone ukulele which he told us is not an easy instrument to set up! Tuning difficulties notwithstanding the performance of 'All Of Me' worked well with some jaunty strumming and then nimble picking with Simon weighing in with a bass solo.

Remi explained how working with Simon provides the opportunity for more spontaneous playing and this was perfectly demonstrated with the driving blues curtain closer. Switching to Strat the number opened melodically with Hendrix's 'Little Wing' theme before moving more purposefully into 'Hideaway' originally made famous by Freddie King. This developed into a veritable blues/rock extravaganza with some fabulous driving guitar which left the audience shouting for more. Remi and Simon responded with a swing version of 'Honeysuckle Rose' which bought the programme full circle, the Bonded Warehouse patrons having witnessed yet another evening of very special live music.

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

 
Linda Angelis Quartet - 11 January 2019

By Ian Scott

 

Linda Angelis Quartet

11th January 2019

To get the New Year swinging we had Linda Angelis, no stranger to the Bonded Warehouse having sung and played flugelhorn here before and being part of the audience on occasion. Her rhythm section for the night comprised Fred T Baker on semi-acoustic guitar, David Etheridge on six-string electric bass and Nick Twyman on drums. This was the first time the quartet had played together, but with jazz that can add to the vitality of the music and so it was tonight.

The evening was billed as 'Swing to Bossa', and mainly alternated between beautifully swinging versions of well-known standards like 'Stella by Starlight' and familiar, and not so familiar, bossa nova favourites mainly by Jobim. The samba beat presented no problem for drummer Nick, who had spent 12 years in Brazil. And the latin pieces provided solid jazz with an authentic bossa feel, helped by Linda using original Portuguese lyrics on some such as 'The Dreamer Sang'.

Each set opened with a work out by the rhythm section, getting straight into a relaxed, swinging groove that set the tone for evening. Linda then joined them to add her cool vocals in similar vein, plus contrasting mellow flugelhorn solos on some numbers. 'Only Trust Your Heart' showed the depth and clarity of her vocals to notably good effect; and 'It Could Happen To You', to samba beat, had Linda scatting without losing the melody or relaxed rhythmic feel that characterised the evening.

Half way through the set, Fred T Baker gave us an amazing guitar solo – 'Spinal Trap'. Perhaps echoing his middle name – Thelonious - he based this on a difficult chord which he nonetheless negotiated with apparent ease to hold everyone in the room captivated, not least the other musicians. And we were treated to another of his jaw-dropping solos in the second set.

The excellent music continued in the second set: including an individual treatment of 'One Note Samba'; a lovely mid-tempo version of Sting's 'Walking on the Moon', with crackling drumming by Nick; and the unusual 'Bossa Nova Nursery Rhymes' which had Linda effortlessly soaring up and down the vocal range as she had done all through.

This was an evening that passed all too quickly, as the music flowed from a group of experienced, master musicians, who connected with a clearly appreciative audience from start to finish. Incidentally, the gig was filmed for Linda so we may get to enjoy some of it on YouTube or the like, although that cannot compare with being there on the night.

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

 

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