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Andrew Bain and friends – Fringe bar, Jan 17th

January 18, 2018

This was billed as Bain’s quintet, but he quickly made it clear it’s basically a bunch of old mates. With the drummer (last heard in Bristol at the Hen and Chicken in 2016) now happily resident in Clifton, the Fringe is his local, and he took the opportunity to reconvene a line-up who used to appear regularly in Birmingham. All – Bain, Rebecca Nash on keys, Rian Vosloo on bass, and Sam Crockatt on tenor – are now based in or near (Crockatt) Bristol, save for Fringe regular Percy Pursglove, who came down once again from Brum.

If you had musical mates like this, you’d want to meet up. It was clear from the off that this was going to be special. For a couple of hours on Wednesday night it was impossible to think there was a better band playing anywhere in the country. Players at this level, who know one another well, have a kind of confidence that can’t be bought. Not the swaggering kind. The kind that means you can consort gleefully with the most standard of standards, knowing that they will sound good in spite of their utter familiarity.

Item: in the alternate universe where I grew up a competent musician, if someone called Body and Soul on the stand, I’d be frozen from knowing that 99 per cent of the thousands of previous excursions on that tune are probably better than anything I could come up with off the cuff. It’d just feel pointless. (You’ve probably heard shows where it was). These players lean into it eagerly – segueing from a strong treatment of Sam Rivers’ Beatrice as it happens –  sure that, together, they’ll find something worth doing with it yet again.

If they can do it for Body and Soul, it’ll work anywhere – and it does. Henderson’s Recordame, a Brubeck associated ballad whose title I forget, Skylark, and Strayhorn’s blues Take the Coltrane are all riveting in the first set. I’d just formed the thought that it would be great to hear them try some Monk when that set ended, and was rewarded with a no-nonsense Bright Mississippi as the opener for the second half, and Rhythm-a-ning at the end (‘cos you have to have at least one number with Rhythm changes in a show like this).

Every number sounded as good as the others. This is one way to keep jazz alive: dip into the common repertoire and play it like it is the most important thing you ever did. Everyone played out of their skin, egged on by Bain’s exhaustively detailed and hyper-responsive drumming, the kind that puts a smile on the faces of the entire band. There were lots of smiles between them all, but total seriousness when committing the seemingly inexhaustible stream of fine solos. Pursglove, sticking to flugelhorn all evening, seemed to gather intensity on every outing; Crockatt has a sax tone for every occasion, Nash comped beautifully and soloed passionately, Vosloo looked and sounded like a man in his element the entire evening. This was a richly satisfying evening of jazz at its most joyful, rounded off with an outrageously enjoyable tear up on Caravan. Another old chestnut: freshly roasted.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2018 6:24 pm

    Beautiful gig – the Brubeck tune was ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’!

  2. January 19, 2018 9:42 pm

    Ah yes. Good name for a jazz tune 🙂


  1. Gig of the week – Andrew Bain | Mainly jazz in Bristol
  2. Bristol jazz week, Jan 14 | Mainly jazz in Bristol

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