Ivo Neame Quintet, Hen and Chicken, Sep 15th

Don’t often do this nowadays, but a few words hotfoot from the gig…

First night of a short tour of the SW, and great to see this band building on the two CDs they have produced, in a reduced line-up (Neame, and vibes player Jim Hart with no horns) and, more recently, an expanded one (the five present tonight plus Jason Yarde and Shabaka Hutchings).

The jazz economy being what it is, the quintet don’t get on the road much, but most of them know each others’ playing well – Neame with bassist Jasper Høiby in Phronesis, of course, and sax and flute player Tori Freestone with Høiby in Compassionate Dictatorship. Jim Hart is also a serial collaborator, having appeared with the expanded Phronesis at the QEH in the Spring.

So great to see all five together, with Dave Hamblett doing sterling work on drums. Impressions of the gig:  Neame’s compositions (I think everything was his tonight) really repay the live airing. They express a different side of his musicality from what we hear in Phronesis – more texture, different moods, though shifts of time signature are still common. He’s exploring quite a range of feeling, broader than the alternation of “feelgood” upbeat themes and wisftul balladry which is the less imaginative jazz composer’s default repertoire. And this band has strength in depth – just when you decided that the lines Hart had just delivered to close a vibes solo made him star of the evening Freestone responded with a blistering tenor excursion, and the leader (on a tiny electric keyboard as the Hen and Chicken has no piano) responded in kind. Add Freestone’s atmospheric flute playing, and Neame reaching a couple of times for his trusty accordion and there is a pleasing variety to the sound.

Variety, too, in the compositions, with the droll ghost story sound effects of Owl of Me, the boppish intricacy of Birdbrained from the quartet recording, and the absorbing complexities of Quixotic and Yatra.

If you’re anywhere in reach of their other dates on this tour (Appledore, St Ives, St Austell), they will improve your week no end.

A great start to the top notch programme Ian Storror has put together for the Southville venue this Autumn. Martin Speake in a fortnight with uber-drummer Jeff Williams is already in the diary.

Add/Sep 16th. Slightly more considered, but equally enthusiastic, view from Mike Collins here . See you at the next one, Mike.

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