Julian Arguelles trio, St George’s. Jan 29

Julian Arguelles was dubbed “the English Joe Lovano” by John Fordham the other day. Now that raises the stakes for gig. But I can see what he means. He seems to have acquired some extra – what? – authority, I suppose, in the last few years.

Playing St George’s with a New York rhythm section only a degree or two less hot than the other Julian (Siegel’s) cohorts on his January tour – Michael Formanek’s flexible bass and Tom Rainey’s clattery drums brought home the comparison. Our Joe likes a trio, after all. And so do I. There’s something specially pleasing about a three-way interaction, mebbe because listening to three things going on at once is the most I can usually manage. I wonder if that sometimes goes for the players as well? Feels very different from a quartet to me anyway. This one was definitely a trio of three equal partners, though all the pieces I think were by Arguelles except one they made up on the spot.

The overall feel at times reminded me of Joe Henderson trios, especially the one with Al Foster and Rufus Reid. That was mainly standards based, including standards of the other Joe’s own, and this wasn’t. But the feel was definitely there. Thoughtful, sometimes slightly restrained horn (Arguelles plays lots of them but stuck to tenor throughout), and inventive accompanists. St G’s was not exactly full, but there was a decent turn out and the players obviously loved “the room” as JS called it.

Mostly new tunes, with a couple from the trio’s rather fine CD of a couple of years ago, including the cheekily titled Evan’s Freedom Pass (see previous post). They finished with a gorgeous ballad which could have been written by Abdullah Ibrahim, though I guess it wasn’t. Anyhow, ‘twas a nice ending after some of the rather abstract pieces which preceded. All a bit less user friendly than the previous Jazz UK gig at St George’s. Next, another restrained, mid-career English saxophone player with an overstated hairline – Martin Speake on Friday 13th. I really like his playing, as it happens, though this sequence doesn’t immediately strike one as the most brilliant piece of programming ever… Still he has Bobo Stenson on piano as well, which makes the gig compulsory for anyone who cares about people who have been playng great music the last three or four decades. Heard his original tour with Stenson and Paul Motion – who stays at home in New York these days, alas – a few years ago and it was a richly rewarding evening

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