Tag Archives: Roy Williams

Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2016: Remembering Alex Welsh

Remembering Alex Welsh, Spiegeltent St Andrew Square ****

For the second consecutive year, the evening slot on the last day of the jazz festival– or as bandleader John Burgess called it “the fag-end of the festival” – became a jovial celebration of the music of the much-loved Scottish trumpeter and legend of British jazz who died, aged 52, in 1982.

Sunday’s concert reunited the line-up from last year, and was led by the afore-mentioned clarinettist/saxophonist and amiable host Burgess whose jokey patter added to the festive atmosphere. Indeed, from the energy expended by the entire seven-piece band in the opening number, it seemed as if the musicians had started the party without us: they were already on fire when they launched into a rousing Rose Room – there was no gradual build-up. No sooner had a clarinet-wielding Burgess played along with the front line on the melody of Rose Room than he was blowing the sax on the first solo. This was a high-octane concert from the get-go.

Particularly impressive – as ever – was the human dynamo Enrico Tomasso, who, at his best is an irrepressible bundle of musical energy when he’s playing this sort of Chicago-style jazz – and whose solos seemed to explode out of him, notably on an exhilarating After You’ve Gone. Burgess was being facetious when he described him as “quite simply the finest in his price range” but Tomasso is undoubtedly the best when it comes to contemporary trumpeters with the Louis Armstrong influence to the fore.

And, of course, there were also terrific contributions from the great, ever-nimble and ever-lyrical trombonist Roy Williams, who, as a veteran of Welsh’s band, brought the stamp of authenticity to the proceedings.

* First published in HeraldScotland on Monday July 25th
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Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival: Remembering Alex Welsh

Remembering Alex Welsh, Tron Kirk ****

Anyone who knew Alex Welsh, the Edinburgh-born trumpet star who died in 1982, and who was at Sunday evening’s tribute concert, will have been heartened by how well he is still remembered and how he inspired arguably the best concert of the final days of this year’s jazz festival.

Of course it helped that the septet comprised two members of Welsh’s famous band – the English trombone star Roy Williams and guitarist/banjoist Jim Douglas. The eloquent Williams, an old favourite of Edinburgh audiences, in his introduction to a gorgeous Cole Porter rarity entitled You Are Everything I Love, told the packed house: “It’s wonderful to be doing this – and quite emotional too, because we had some great times. You may have noticed that we were five minutes late starting the gig – that was a tradition of the Alex Welsh band!”

Explaining that it’s only recently that he has come to appreciate how good the band sounded, Williams described the day-to-day reality of playing the same tunes with the same guys every night. Trumpeter Enrico Tomasso, who was just 11 when he met Welsh, paid verbal and musical homage in style: a veritable jazz dynamo, he was in tremendous form throughout – as was the rest of the front line, which included ringmaster John Burgess (clarinet/saxophone) and which made even the oldest of old warhorses sound fresh, energetic and exciting.

Burgess may not have had the firsthand experience of encountering Alex Welsh – he didn’t say – but it was clear that it was his love of the band’s recordings which prompted this project, and so much fun was had by all that we can undoubtedly expect a reunion in the not-too-distant.

* First published in The Herald on Monday, July 27th

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Norwich Jazz Party 2012: Assorted Highlights

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.

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The Forecast for October

October is set to be a very good month, jazz-wise, with outbreaks of world-class music and mirth up and down the country thanks to a short British tour by US clarinettist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski.

The main opportunity to hear him will be at the fifth Lockerbie Jazz Festival (www.lockerbiejazz.com) where he co-leads a septet with fellow clarinettist, saxophonist and raconteur extraordinaire Alan Barnes on Saturday 2nd. This all-star line-up (which also features the wonderful trombonist Roy Williams) will be playing an all-Ellington programme. If their Thelonious Monk-themed concert of two years ago is anything to go by, this will be a real treat.

Peplowski and Barnes lock horns again on Sunday 3rd, for a more informal afternoon concert. Other likely highlights of the Lockerbie weekend include Carol Kidd’s show, Alan Barnes’s gig with Jim Mullen’s Organ Trio and a gig by the Scottish trad band The Batchelors of Jazz.

And to celebrate the festival’s fifth birthday, there will be a special event on Saturday 2nd – an all-day extravaganza entitled Take Five, featuring a continuous stream of jazz (23 concerts; 100 performers) on five different stages in the centre of town – for £5. More details on the website listed above.

Other dates in the Peplowski itinerary include:

OCTOBER 1st: The Classroom, Nairn, in the morning & The Newton Hotel, Nairn, in the evening, both duo gigs with pianist Tom Finlay. For more info or tickets, contact Ken Ramage on 07968 495350.

OCTOBER 5th: Pizza Express, Dean Street, London (0845 027017), 8.30pm. Peplowski joins forces with the excellent baritone and tenor saxophonist Karen Sharpe, plus stellar rhythm section of John Pearce (piano), Dave Green (bass) & Steve Brown (drums) for one night only!

OCTOBER 7th: Smalls, Caxton Arms, 36 North Gardens, Brighton (01273 725866), 8pm. With Mark Edwards (piano), Steve Thompson (bass) & Piers Clark (drums).

OCTOBER 8th: Hanley Castle High School, Church End, Hanley Castle, Upton-Upon-Severn (01684 593794). With John Pearce, Dave Green & Steve Brown.

OCTOBER 10th: Jazz Matters at The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton Keynes (01908 280800), 11.30am. Ken talks about his Desert Island Discs.

OCTOBER 10th: Jazz Caravan, St Andrews Hall, St Andrews Road, Chesterton, Cambridge (01223 293068), 8.30pm. With John Pearce, Dave Green & Bobby Worth.

OCTOBER 11th: New Woking Jazz Circle, All Saints, Woodham Lane, Horsell, Woking (01932 406242). With Alan Barnes, John Pearce, Dave Green & Steve Brown.

OCTOBER 13th: Concorde Club, Stoneham Lane, Eastleigh (0238 061 3989), 9pm. With Alan Barnes, John Pearce, Dave Green & Steve Brown.

OCTOBER 14th: Harri’s Jazz, Bagster House, Walton Lane, Shepperton (01784 435396), 8.30pm. With John Pearce, Dave Green & Steve Brown.

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Hot (Jazz) off the Press …

Just in time for those of us suffering from jazz festival withdrawal symptoms (and missing our annual dose of Nairn jazz) comes the news that the excellent Swedish Jazz Kings (including the great Bent Persson, pictured centre, on trumpet) are playing a number of dates in Britain in late August. Not only that but they’re joined by old chum Bob Barnard, the ace Australian trumpeter. Here are the dates and contact details:

* Saturday, August 21st at 8pm: Linlithgow Primary School, Preston Road, Linlithgow. Tel: 01506-848821

* Sunday, August 22nd at 7.30pm: Fairfield House Hotel, Fairfield Road, Ayr. Tel: Katy on 01292 443309 or Stuart on 01292 590773

* Monday, August 23rd at 8pm: One Touch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness (with British trombone star Roy Williams added). Tel: 01463 234234

* Tuesday, August 24th at 8pm: Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, High Street, Carshalton (Sutton, London).  Tel: 020-8647 2114

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Norwich Jazz Party 2010: Django & Sandy

Two jazz legends were celebrated in sets featuring the delightful soprano saxophonist Jim Galloway and the grand old guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli at this year’s Norwich Jazz Party.

First up was Djangology, a Howard Alden-led tribute to the ever-popular guitarist Django Reinhardt. As you’d expect from a Djangly set, this was a joy from start to finish – and it gave all the front-liners in the sextet a chance to shine, not least Alden himself who dazzled on such finger-busters as Nagasaki and Rose Room.

Tenor saxophonist Dan Block contributed a sublime and sultry bossa nova version of Insensiblement (which he’d never played before), while Bucky Pizzarelli’s  take on Nuages was a tour-de-force performance. Swaying from side to side and looking like the Pied Piper as he played his soprano sax, Jim Galloway entranced with his exquisite solo on the languorous Manoir de Mes Reves.

Galloway took centre stage the next night for his sequel to last year’s Sandy Brown set. The 2010 Sandy Brown tribute set was every bit as thrilling as the 2009 one. Galloway was in his element, and no wonder: Brown’s music is nothing if not uplifting.

It was a treat to hear such unusual, rousing melodies as Africa Blues and Everybody Loves Saturday Night being played live, and with such style and good humour. And Galloway did a great job of sounding like himself while evoking the quirkiness and spikiness of the late clarinettist’s playing.

He was undoubtedly spurred on by the enthusiasm and talent of the rest of the band. Randy Reinhart was superb on trumpet duties; his hot but unfussy style of playing perfectly suited to the Brown sound. Bucky Pizzarelli resumed his role from last year, while trombonist Roy Williams brought an authentic British touch to the band and seemed – like everyone else in the room – to be having great fun with the material.

God, I wish someone had recorded it for YouTube.  Surely it’s time Galloway got to record this stuff with one – or both – of his Norwich line-ups. Bagsy a seat in the recording studio ..

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