Arabella Sprot quintet, Be-Bop club, 11 oct

Arabella Sprot: stage three. The band leader here began gigging around Bristol while doing a degree, returned after a year in Germany with a new quartet, and is now on the road (this was 1st night of a short tour)  with another bunch of new cohorts after more study – now for a Master’s at Birmingham conservatoire.

The result is talent beginning to blossom in a way that suggests an interesting career in the making. She’s a fine contemporary tenor player, in the sense that she has command of a range of bop and post-bop styles and is forging them into something personal – and a fast-developing composer. New offerings this evening included a solo saxophone piece drawing on her study of Mark Turner, an interesting model for a young player when most seem devoted to Brecker or Shorter, and a two part suite inspired by Franz Kafka (I wouldn’t say it sounded Kafkaesque, it was altogether too brisk and bouncy, but it was good).

Plenty of ambition, then, and a nicely varied programme with other Sprot compositions, including the insistent Decoy and a nice blues to finish and a couple of standards – Portrait of Jenny (which you can also listen to on her bandcamp page  here) and On Green Dolphin Street.

All benefitted immeasurably from the presence of Nick Malcolm, depping  on trumpet and doing some heroic sight-reading, and the Don Pullenesque piano of Steve Stromans whose two-fisted solos style is grippingly intense and has fast accompanist reflexes that matched the rapid invention of the horn players.

James Banner on bass and Ric Yarborough on drums played more of a supporting role but they have a good understanding between them and several sax and drums passages showed a more hell-for-leather side of Sprot’s playing.

So an impressive evening and plenty of reasons to add them the the list of new, young bands with lots of interesting new music to offer, and look forward to their next date.


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