Tag Archives: Paul Desmond

Review: Bobby Wellins Quartet

Bobby Wellins Quartet, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Sunday June 30th  ****

If the Glasgow Jazz Festival organisers thought that they were cruising on the home stretch by the last 24 hours of the event, they clearly had another thing coming when, on Sunday morning, word came through that British piano great Stan Tracey was cancelling his appearance at the closing Fruitmarket concert that night. Ill health forced the octogenarian to reluctantly pull out, but the rest of the band – bassist Andrew Cleyndert, drummer Clark Tracey and prodigal Glasgow son, tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins – came north.

What was clear from the outset was that these musicians have played together so long and know each other so well that they are completely tuned in to the workings of each others’ minds. On the stand-out number, a cheeky My Funny Valentine, the ever-inventive Cleyndert seemed to finish Wellins’s phrases – such is their rapport.

You might think that a replacement pianist would struggle to fit immediately in, but Glasgow-based Paul Harrison – said to have been personally selected by Tracey as his dep for the night – did just that. And with considerable style. His Funny Valentine solo turned into a elegant duet with Cleyndert: it was as if they were operating as a unit. On Lover Man, taken at a brisk tempo and imbued with a Latin feel, Harrison stole the show with a dynamic, colourful solo which was nothing short of dazzling.

Earlier, Paul Towndrow (soprano saxophone) and Steve Hamilton (piano) had revealed that theirs is another class double-act. Their short set featured a string of original numbers, though the undoubted highlight was a gorgeous interpretation of a classic ballad, The Very Thought of You.

First published in The Herald, Tuesday July 2

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CD Recommendations

Carol Sloane: We’ll Meet Again (Arbors Records ARCD 19400)
*****
Dearest Duke, Carol Sloane’s last CD on Arbors, was a glorious affair which showcased her breathy, lyrical voice with just piano and Ken Peplowski on clarinet or tenor sax. Peplowski is reunited with Sloane on this collection of love songs and once more his playing is a dream, whether he’s accompanying or soloing. Veteran guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and bassist Steve LaSpina add their stylish playing to the mix, while an uncredited Aaron Weinstein (violin) guest-stars on a few tracks. One of the best CDs of the year so far…
Stan Getz All-Star Groups: Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz AMSC997)
*****
It’s difficult to get beyond the first disc in this double CD: it’s so sensational. Stan Getz’s 1957 encounter with the Oscar Peterson Trio is one of the must-have jazz albums and features tour-de-force performances all round. Getz blows I Want to Be Happy into smithereens, aided and abetted by the driving piano of Peterson, while the ballads are nothing short of sublime; Getz’s tenor at its most tender and beguiling. The other classic albums included are the 1955 Hamp and Getz (with vibes legend Lionel Hampton) and Jazz Giants, a superb all-star LP also from 1957.
Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond: The Duets – 1975 (Verve 0602527068633)
****
Duo albums are a rare treat – especially when they’re as beautifully executed as this one, which was recorded in 1975. Pianist-composer Dave Brubeck and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond had the idea for the album when they played some duets together on a jazz cruise that year, and after listening to the results which had been recorded by the BBC (one of those original tracks is included here), they resolved to make an LP on dry land. Showcased in this setting, Desmond’s melancholy alto has an ethereal quality, while Brubeck’s piano is suitably haunting.
John Bunch: Do Not Disturb (Arbors Records ARCD 19403)
*****
The much-loved American jazz pianist John Bunch died in March at the age of 88. This wonderful trio album (with guitarist Frank Vignola and bassist John Webber) is his final CD. Recorded late last year, it gives little evidence of Bunch’s frailness as he swings energetically and as gracefully as ever through a typically diverse selection of numbers ranging from bop tunes to lesser-played Duke Ellington. Stand-outs include the Duke’s title tune, Sonny Rollins’ Doxy and Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way.

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