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John Law’s Re-creations, Fringe jazz, 4 April

April 5, 2018
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Yet a another world class show at the Fringe. I wrote warmly about this appealing quartet last September. A second sampling last night confirmed that they provide superb entertainment. Some of the set landmarks repeated from that earlier outing,  a Monk tune in each half for instance. The second, Well, You Needn’t, sounded distinctly like Don Pullen’s old crowd-pleaser Big Alice, as my other pair of ears noted – in the spirit of this splendid version, though not quite as long!

Monk is always welcome. So is the supremely eclectic policy that governs this band – play anything you want, from Rossini to Radiohead, as long as it has a damn good tune. OK, Imagine doesn’t really – it’s pretty dull – but everyone knows it and in these hands it grows into something more interesting. Flirting even more dangerously with outright cheesiness, Norwegian Wood – a tune I’m mildly allergic to – becomes this quartet’s answer to ‘Trane’s treatment of My Favourite Things, with Sam Crockatt fashioning a wonderfully abstract intro, then boosted into the stratosphere on soprano sax by the roaring rhythm section.

That was the first set closer. Even more epic was their finale, an exuberant re-creation of Summertime. An extended high-energy piano excursion from the leader, matched moment-to-moment by the James Agg’s supple bass, evoked a thrillingly intense response on tenor from Crockatt. Volume was a problem by now, sadly, rising too far in a small room to be quite as enjoyable as the rest of the set, but everything else about the gig was pure pleasure, including the customary rendition of Mungo Jerry’s Summertime as a footnote to the Gershwin. We succumbed to a self-imposed 11 p.m. curfew for reasons, so there was an encore we missed, but left well-satisfied.

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