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James Morton, Andy Sheppard – The Alma Tavern, June 2

June 3, 2013

Another excellent Bristol pub music venue, and another place for Andy Sheppard to reward his home town audience. I make this three different bands he plays with here now, and may have missed others…  This time, it is a quintet, with some-time protege James Morton sharing horn duties, the always unobtrusively excellent Mike Willox on keys, Ian Matthews on drums and a new in town (I think) bass player  – he’s Italian and called Pasquale but didn’t catch the surname so apologies to him.

The rear of the Alma is a good space (a free entry gig where people listen is good to find!) and this was a splendidly uninhibited evening’s music making. Hard bop standards were the mainstay – the first set began with a Monk blues, a Coltrane blues (Equinox) and All Blues from Miles, which segued somehow into Caravan – Sheppard and Morton enjoy teasing duo codas which dissolve into the next tune.

Morton never plays with less than total commitment, and his habitually funky style was stretched out a little on this material, in this company. He remained mainly in his typical zone – somewhere between Cannonball and Hank Crawford, it always sounds like to me – and his enthusiasm, as ever, was infectious. Sheppard listened with his usual eyebrows-slightly-raised amusement, then followed up in similar vein much of the time. If you see him with Trio Libero who are mostly more reflective, you might forget how much he enjoys this kind of blow. On Equinox, indeed, he dug into a big bag of Coltraneisms and even took on some of the great man’s iron tone. Not many people can do that.

Matthews swung mightily, and loosened up nicely on Caravan, probably the best performance of the night. Willox followed every twist of the horn solos and treated us to a fine clutch of his own – usually shorter but no less interesting. And the second set continued in similar vein with some Freddie Hubbard (Little Sunflower), a ballad I failed to recall the title of, and Sonny Rollins’ warhorse, Oleo, a blowing vehicle par excellence. A timeless feel to the whole affair, evoking a taste of thousands of gigs in hundreds of venues over the decades doing this kind of thing with these kind of tunes. Nothing special in a way. Unless you were there, in which case the main effect is to make you think, can I hear these people do this again, and how soon? Well, the Pushy Doctors trio have just confirmed a series of dates at The Fringe, so perhaps this quintet can be persuaded to reconvene at the Alma.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Willox permalink
    June 4, 2013 10:27 am

    Hi Jon, Pasquale’s surname is Votino. The ballad was Misty!



  2. June 4, 2013 12:44 pm

    noted – thanks!

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