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Other people’s music

September 16, 2017

Two contrasting sets of people playing others’ music this week – different selections, for different reasons, but excellent results in both cases.

Thursday at Future Inns solved a late-gap-in-the-programme problem by booking saxophonist John Martin. He now lives near Bath, and joined three Bristol stalwarts – Rian Vosloo on bass, Matt Brown on drums, and Anders Olinder on keys for the evening. “This is billed as my quartet, but really we only just met”, said Martin, disarmingly, and confirmed this by getting Matt’s christian name wrong on first try.

So what to play? Well, the obvious answer for a crew like this: a selection from the large repertoire of modern jazz standards. So we had Sam Rivers’ beautiful Beatrice to open – a tune that always puts me in mind of Joe Henderson’s titanic State of the Tenor session and that is somehow the prolific Rivers only contribution to the common songbook. Then a Chick Corea piece, Benny Golson’s swinger Along Came Betty, and Shorter’s Ju-Ju, with Martin switching to soprano. Four tunes with solos for all made a decent set. These are jazz tunes from jazz composers, and suited all four to a T. By the end of the first one, they sounded like a band – and were up for Martin’s penchant for suddenly pushing into more adventurous areas just as everyone expects the piece to end.

The same was true in the briefer second set, opening less promisingly with All Blues, so often played it’s hard not to make it sound cliched, then Steve Swallow’s lovely Falling Grace, popularised by Gary Burton and Mike Gibbs, and Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance.  It was enough to gratify the modest crowd, with some sparkling piano from Olinder and Martin making good use of the multiphonics he has studied extensively to add drama. He’s a really excellent player with the talent to develop real story-telling solos, and it’ll be worth looking out for future visits.

Like Martin, our near local (Frome) piano luminary John Law has plenty of music of his own. But he’s chosen to explore others’ tunes in his latest quartet, for which he’s recruited neighbour Sam Crockatt on sax and the new rhythm team of James Agg on bass and Billy Weir on drums. They’ve already made a terrific CD and played a few gigs and are a superb working unit playing anything they fancy. They do some of the same modern standards. I’ve heard Law play a set much like the one above at Future Inns. Indeed, Falling Grace opens the CD and on Friday at the BeBop club, there were a couple of Monk tunes – Straight, No Chaser to open and an outrageously funked up Well, You Needn‘t in the second set. But the bulk of the set is devoted to having fun with pop tunes with great hooks – like Pink Floyd’s Money, Stevie Wonder’s I Can’t Help It. It’s the kind of thing that has worked so well for Andy Sheppard in the Pushy Doctors, but Law’s arrangements are trickier. The fun of the thing was epitomised by a version of Summertime re-worked to sound, at first, like Bach. It would have segued into a rocking treatment of Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime but this band were having such a good time they’d lost track of time and BeBop club emcee Andy Hague had to call a halt for the sake of the neighbours. Never mind, you can hear a live recording here.

Here’s hoping this band gets the attention they deserve and lots more gigs. Law in “everything’s an anthem if I say so” mode is superb, Crockatt’s contributions are consistently compelling and the young rhythm section were energetically inspired. They’d be a good festival bet, I reckon, for people booking the likes of Michael Wollny. Meantime, look out for more local outings, and get hold of the CD. It’s great.

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