This sublime Duke Ellington number was my very favourite piece played by the wonderful Scots ex-pat saxophonist Jim Galloway and the ever-delightful pianist Rossano Sportiello at the Norwich Jazz Party.
Anyone who assumed that Galloway would be playing his usual soprano sax for his duo set with Sportiello was, as you can see, in for a surprise as he had borrowed Karen Sharp’s baritone for the occasion and played the whole set on it.
I love hearing great musicians in the intimate, duo setting – and this particular set was a joy from start to finish, thanks to the chemistry between the players, the top-rate performances and the imaginative choice of tunes which included such gems as Black Butterfly (Ellington), Lotus Blossom (Strayhorn) and Old-Fashioned Love (James P Johnson).
Here’s another one they played which I’ve never heard live before – the jaunty Santa Claus Blues
One of the personal pleasures of this year’s Norwich Jazz Party was the chance for me to see the French trumpeter Alain Bouchet again – and the first time that I’d seen him in the company of Warren Vache, who had put us in contact in the first instance. Two decades ago!
In fact, it was exactly 20 years ago – in May 1992 – that I first heard of Alain, whose style of playing has been shaped by very similar influences to Warren’s. I was already a fan of Mr Vache’s music back then, and during a brief visit to my home town of Glasgow from Paris where I was working as an “assistante” in a school, I went with my father to hear Warren perform at the Glasgow Society of Musicians. On learning that I was based in Paris, he put me in touch with Alain who was then working regularly in the French capital.
My pal and I went to hear him at Le Montana, a club on the rue Saint-Benoit in Saint Germain-des-Pres. As impoverished students, we couldn’t afford the bar prices so we shared (and topped up) a bottle of Perrier as we listened to the jazz. Alain’s group didn’t come on until 10pm and the music wasn’t due to finish until 2am, by which time the trains out to the suburb where we stayed would have stopped forthe night. Determined not to miss a note, I persuaded my pal to stay until the end of the gig. Then we crossed the boulevard Saint-Germain to the Pub Saint-Germain , where we nursed another Perrier until 6am when our trains started running again. The things we do for jazz…
Anyway, I was an immediate fan of Alain’s lovely playing. Warm, lyrical, swinging and joyful, it is beautifully captured on a CD from that era which I still play regularly: his 1991 Jazzology album Introducing Alain Bouchet (in His Premier American Recording) which found him in the company of Vache and several other top American solo stars.
In Norwich, he was in great company too – playing with the likes of Rossano Sportiello (piano) for the very first time. Here they are in action:
The Norwich Jazz Party strikes just the right balance between the completely informal, thrown-together, “jam” sets and arranged sets which have a rehearsal and charts and more esoteric material. I love both – and both formats produced some magic last weekend. Such as? Well, that first track came from the opening night’s jam session. Or try this Drop Me Off in Harlem, which combusted into action so spontaneously that I didn’t even have the camera ready. And, no, that’s not Robert Redford on the soprano sax: it’s Bob Wilber, who, having hit 84, now seems to be rewinding towards his sprightly seventies…Another number which I was delighted to have captured on camera was this funky take on No Moon At All by singer Rebecca Kilgore with Craig Milverton (piano), Harry Allen (tenor sax) and Eddie Erickson (guitar) all featured. Of the sets featuring arrangements, my favourites were undoubtedly the Benny Carter set, led by Ken Peplowski, and Alan Barnes’s Ellington set – of which this sublime Sultry Sunset, featuring the national treasure that is Mr Barnes, was a stand-out.