Cornettist Warren Vache was kept busy in Annie Ross’s band over the Norwich weekend and although he was well featured in her sets, I’m sure I wasn’t the only punter who was especially looking forward to the last day. Why? Because it offered two opportunities to hear Vache in co-leader mode – and both quite different.
Last year, I arrived too late for Vache’s duo set with guitarist Howard Alden and my shin had only just recovered from the kicking I’d given it by the time I got to this year’s event …. So I was thrilled to get a chance to hear them on Monday – and it was certainly worth the wait (not to mention the bruises).
Vache was in superb form, at his most delicate and sensitive on a beautiful version of Ill Wind which highlighted the great rapport between him and Alden and culminated in a laid-back, conversational exchange.The bossa nova Felicidad was breezily seductive and played so quietly and gently that you could have heard a pin drop – on the carpeted floor – during Alden’s elegant solo.
But the outstanding number in this outstanding set was the utterly sublime My One and Only Love. A gorgeous tune in its own right, it became heartbreakingly exquisite in the hands of Alden and, especially, Vache, who treated it with the utmost tenderness and gentleness. Few musicians have such a bewitching way with a ballad as Vache – and the duo setting is the perfect showcase for his softer side.
Later in the day, he had a chance to break out in bop mode, with the quintet he co-leads with ace trombonist John Allred. Their set was essentially a preview of their forthcoming album, Top Shelf, and it went down a storm. This is a tight, hard-swinging band – Tardo Hammer (piano) and Nicki Parrott (bass) are regulars; only British drummer Steve Brown isn’t on the new CD.
Vache and Allred have both waxed lyrical to me about their musical rapport; indeed, Vache has enthused about the affinity he and Allred feel – both for material (a shared love of the music of trumpeter Blue Mitchell provided the foundation on top of which the new CD was created) and in the way they play it. And it was certainly in evidence on Monday, especially in the freewheeling climax to They Can’t Take That Away From Me when the two horns let rip with an unaccompanied bit of improvisation which underlined the similarities in the way their minds work.
A further touch of class was added by their pianist, Tardo Hammer, whose elegance and wit shone through on the playful Sweet Pumpkin and on his beguiling solo take on I Surrender, Dear.