Simon Spillett/Dave Newton trio, Future Inns Cabot Circus, Feb 7
Been a while getting round to this one, partly because not sure what to say. It was certainly a contrast with June Tabor the night before… Here we had classic high energy hard bop, plunging into headlong solos almost as soon as themes were stated – punctuated by nicely pitched ballads, and all knit together with mildly droll introductions from the tenor player out front. He is certainly a fine musician, obviously devoted to Tubby Hayes (the tunes and arrangements as well as the style) but with hints of plenty of others. I was put in mind more than once of George Coleman: the torrent of notes, the relentless forward movement. Dave Newton on keys matched the horn for invention and intensity.
So why did I not like it as much as I hoped?
It wasn’t the tenor style, which I rather took to, and sits squarely in a lineage which has plenty of mileage in it yet. Or not, at least, the approach to the tunes. I am drawn more to post Ornette style, sure, but this older discipline, as harmonically sophisticated as you like, has bags of appeal. I think it must be something to do with the time and the rhythm. This is interestingly hard to describe. Everything here seemed right on top of the beat. And the bass and drums were tight and kind of, I don’t know, vertical, and that beat was always clearly stated. It seemed a bit monotonous.
It wouldn’t have sounded monotonous, I’m guessing, fifty years ago, when this style was at its peak. But now it sounds like playing as if none of the jazz which has been played since then ever happened. Martin Williams (I think) says somewhere that all innovations in jazz have been partly about rhythm. And one thing which has certainly happened since bands sounded like this is that the rhythm has, well, opened out is one general way to put it. Full disclosure, I spent a good deal of the weekend before this gig listening to Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins. No hint of their flexibility here, still less of Tony Williams and Ron Carter, say, or William Parker and Hamid Drake.
The result was that, for me, all this music, so brilliantly delivered from the front, seemed to come out sounding much the same, a bit cramped and confined. Not a good way for jazz to be. My other pair of ears received the same impression. Or maybe I just don’t like this style and setting any more? Plenty of other people seemed to enjoy it well enough. But I need a bit more breathing space in my music.