Many thanks to Trevor Bannister from Jazz in Reading for this review of the May 2021 livestream. Go to https://guildfordjazz.org.uk/whats-on/concerts-online/#Previous to be sent a link to watch the performance. Photo by the kind permission of Guildford Jazz and the Boileroom team
Livestream from the Boileroom, Wednesday May 5th 2021
Vasilis Xenopoulos/Nigel Price XPQ: Vasilis Xenopoulos tenor saxophone, Nigel Price guitar, Dario Di Lecce bass, Winston Clifford drums
As I have said on several previous occasions, the Livestream gigs from the Boileroom, Guildford, each of outstanding quality, have truly been the next best thing to a live event. However, on this occasion one camera shot, incorporating both the stage and the auditorium, added a new dimension to the experience.
It brought home how tiny and how empty the Boileroom is. But for a single camera mounted on the floor there is nothing in front of the stage except space. Just imagine how difficult it must be for the musicians to play as if to a live audience without anyone actually being there. Do they conjure an image of a ‘Full House’ in their mind’s eye, I wonder or is it more a case of ‘Here we are guys? Let’s go for it!’
I suspect it’s the latter, for the opening bars of Kenny Burrell’s ‘Lyresto’, from a 1958 collaboration with John Coltrane, simply oozed with good spirit and the promise that ‘fireworks’ would fly in a celebration of many great guitar/tenor partnerships from the past sixty years. The sharper edge of the Xenopoulos tenor blended perfectly in unison with the depth and glowing tone of the Price guitar and made for an exciting contrast throughout the solos.
It came as no surprise to learn that Dario Di Lecce named bass legend Paul Chambers as a major influence on his playing when he was interviewed during the ‘Q & A’ session later in the evening. His ‘walking’ bass line on ‘The Right Time’ was absolutely superb, as rich in tone as the hue of his beautiful instrument. It added an air of mystery to the original by British guitarist Dave Cliff recorded as the title track for an album with saxophonist Geoff Simkins in 1987.
The next offering was drawn from ‘What’s New’ the second of two albums Sonny Rollins recorded with Jim Hall in 1962. They reaffirmed Sonny’s status as a major innovator on his return to the New York scene after a self-imposed break of three years. Sonny had the intuition to find the ‘jazz spirit’ in the most unlikely show tunes and ‘If Ever I should Leave You’ from the Lerner and Loewe musical ‘Camelot’, a popular hit and signature tune for the singer Robert Goulet, was a perfect case in point. The XPQ interpretation was full of the majestic poise of Sonny Rollins and grace of Jim Hall, full of long inventive lines and with a dancing quality enhanced by the drums of Winston Clifford.
‘Full House’, unleashed the ‘Boileroom’ theme (played, I now realise, over the screen credits that precede the Livestreams) with a machine gun ferocity that brought ‘all hands-on deck’. The early 1960s were clearly fruitful years for guitar/tenor features – this Wes Montgomery title comes from a live album recorded with the ‘Little Giant’ of the tenor, Johnny Griffin for the Riverside label.
‘When Joanna Loved Me’, from the 1964 ‘Easy Living’ album, as one would perhaps expect from a collaboration between Jim Hall and Paul Desmond, was an altogether more gentle and lyrical offering. Vasilis sustained the mood of gentle reflection set up by Price in his beautiful introduction, opening the way for a wonderful extended solo by Dario Di Lecce. Vasilis lifted the pace a little with a breathy solo that returned the tune to Nigel Price for a breath-taking coda.
Winston Clifford, a most sensitive and subtle percussion specialist, now set the ‘pots boiling’ and lifted everyone’s game on ‘Ready and Able’ from the appropriately named 1967 George Benson album, ‘The George Benson Cookbook’; performed,’ as Nigel Price pointed out, ‘Without the aid of a safety net! Wow!
‘On the Trail’, a movement from composer Ferde Grofé’s ‘Grand Canyon Suite’ and the title track from a Jimmy Heath Riverside album with Kenny Burrell, rounded off the evening at a gentle saunter, conjuring visions of the wide-open American West – another tune from an unlikely source that works perfectly in a jazz setting.
In the absence of a live audience to cry out for more, Marianne Windham, stepped in to call for an ‘Encore’. In time honoured tradition, the band checked their watches and ‘reluctantly’ agreed. The result? Imagine the theme statements to ‘Straight No Chaser’ and ‘Billie’s Bounce’ played in succession at Formula 1 speed, followed by a third, hybrid – combining the themes of the first two – a sort of ‘bebop mix-and-match’. Chaotic, great fun, a dazzling conclusion to an outstanding evening of jazz and a prelude to what Winston Clifford declares is the ‘bright future’ for jazz and all live performance artists once we emerge fully from Lockdown. Hear! Hear!
As ever, our thanks to Marianne Windham of Guildford Jazz, Dom and Beth of the Boileroom and Steve from Ultimate Stream, for what is now a world-class presentation and to the various jazz societies and their friends who support this wonderful initiative. A final note: check out the Parliamentary Awards for 2021 before the closing date of 14 May and cast your vote for the Boileroom for the Jazz Innovation Award. https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/parliamentaryjazzawards2021/
Clark Tracey - livestream (April 2021)
Rossano Sportiello (June 2018)
We wanted to say how much we enjoyed the concert on Saturday. A wonderful evening, magnificent musicians and beautifully presented.
Looking forward to next season and thanks to the committee for their hard work,
Derek Nash Quartet (April 2018)
Glad you enjoyed the show, as you saw we enjoyed ourselves equally. A great room, a lovely piano, an attentive audience, a packed house. We couldn’t have asked for more. Thank you.
DixieMix (March 2018)
As an occasional visitor to your jazz evenings I must congratulate you on an excellent choice of band last night. DixieMix were outstanding and gave us an exceptional evenings entertainment. More please.
…. a highly competent group with very experienced individuals playing a great selection of well-oiled stuff presented with good vocal variety. Starts and endings were very crisp with fun arrangements in-between.
Well done to the organisers. The monthly programme is well compiled and it’s great to see a local club with (well-deserved) strong support – and thanks for holding our tickets at the door. All the boxes ticked I think. Didn’t win the raffle though – but you can’t have everything.
T J Johnson and Band (January 2018)
At last!! After 12 years and several requests on my part (what took you so long, Berkhamsted Jazz?) T.J. Johnson was back – hooray! It was a truly marvellous jazz evening on 13 January 2018. Please ask him back.
Mark Nightingale's Dankworth Quintet (January 2017)
We really enjoyed last Saturdays concert, it was superb and our guests thought we are so privileged to have such amazing calibre of players within walking distance from home.
(From C&I M)
Pedigree Jazz Band (September 2016)
We really enjoyed the concert last night, great music and very professional. It exceeded our expectations.
Nick Care Big Band (April 2016)
I had to write to say what a wonderful evening my wife and I had at last night’s gig. Nick Care’s big band gave us hope that whilst there are so many talented young musicians jazz still has a great future. We thought there was a perfect balance to the programme and the arrangements and solos were really exciting. Also, Nick’s compering was most amusing.
I have no hesitation in thoroughly recommending anyone to go and see this band and hope the club can tempt them back in the not too distant future.
(From PG / AG)
We really enjoyed Nick Care’s Big Band on Saturday Night. It was one of the Best Concerts, that is saying something, because we have been going to Berk Jazz Concert’s for 18 Years now. Well Done, for Organising it. Many Thanks.
Derek Nash Quartet (April 2015)
For me was the best evening for this season …. Superb gig. Great musicianship & so good to see such joie de vivre & enjoyment from all the quartet.
We are constantly amazed at the quality of the performances at the venue. So much enjoyment at such a small cost. Thank you for your work in providing so many wonderful evenings there. (Spring 2015)
Robert Fowler's Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band (December 2014)
… Fabulous. Good to see … a big band.
Lenore Raphael (November 2014)
I keep thinking about how much I enjoyed performing in Berkhamsted. What a wonderful audience!!!!
From Lenore Raphael
And Lenore wrote this in her Newsletter:
I just returned from England where I had a wonderful concert in Berkhamsted for the Jazz Society. We had a packed house and a wonderful audience of REAL jazz lovers. Thank you … for keeping jazz alive and well in Berkhamsted.
Dave Moorwood's Rascals Of Rhythm (January 2014)
It was good … to enjoy a session of music again. I couldn’t decide precisely what type of jazz it was so I asked Dave Moorwood and he couldn’t either, so we settled on swing! …. I enclose a cheque which covers the rest of the season’s sessions.
Darius Brubeck 2013
The piece below was written after the concert by Darius Brubeck in February 2013:
Darius Brubeck’s latest CD was recorded in Romania and South Africa, nicely illustrating that he’s done more than most to ensure that jazz has become a true world music. As a boy, Darius accompanied his father on much of the tour that resulted in pieces like the Turkish-inspired “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, and he’s spent much of his working life in South Africa. Currently he has a base in London, which makes a visit to Berkhamsted pretty straightforward.
This was Brubeck’s second concert for Berkhamsted Jazz Club. We think it’s a decent place to play; there’s a regularly maintained Yamaha grand piano, a hall with good acoustics, and the committee may be amateurs, but we can keep ticket prices low and we must be doing things right or we couldn’t have held our thirtieth anniversary festival recently. The audience is usually well into three figures; tonight produced our biggest attendance for several years, and no-one went home disappointed. “A superb evening”, my wife said with simplicity and accuracy.
A Darius Brubeck concert has to pay tribute to his family heritage, but he was at pains to say that he doesn’t lead a tribute band; rather, it’s one which reflects his own experiences and interests, and it’s plain that a lot of thought goes into the planning of a programme. A Darius Brubeck concert will include a couple of old favourites but is always fresh and the programme never becomes formulaic. I think this was the fifth time I’ve heard Darius with his quartet, and two-thirds of the tunes were ones I’d never heard him play before.
The concert began with one of those old faithfuls from the classic 1959 Time Out album – “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, which the O’Higgins tenor and the Brubeck piano ensured soon dropped into an entertaining groove. Not surprisingly, Brubeck’s piano style is influenced by his famous father (I once gave Michael Garrick a blindfold test of a record of Darius playing one of his own compositions; Mike didn’t recognise the piece or the player – but said it reminded him strongly of Dave Brubeck).
“Blue Rondo” was followed by another Dave Brubeck classic, “The Duke” (O’Higgins on soprano), which has become a true jazz standard. Later we heard “Audrey” (with a delicious solo by Brubeck), the beautiful minor blues that emerged from a Dave Brubeck / Paul Desmond recording session and which was played at the funeral of its dedicatee, Audrey Hepburn.
But Darius is a significant composer in his own right. With most jazz composers the words “Here’s a tune of my own” fill audiences with dread, but it seems a pity that his tunes aren’t better known. Tonight we heard “Ravely Street” (soprano again from O’Higgins) and a new piece, prefaced by a long introduction by bassist Matt Ridley, inspired by a trip to Crete. And his infectious “Monkey’s Wedding” could only have been written by someone with a South African background (which was further emphasised by the Abdullah Ibrahim tune “Tsakwe” – Dave O’Higgins wailing on soprano sparking some driving piano and foreground drumming over Brubeck’s ostinato).
Any Darius Brubeck gig will also feature a standard or two from the Great American Songbook; tonight it was the 1930s tune by Victor Young “Ghost Of A Chance”, taken rather more briskly – though very effectively – than usual. Throw in a couple of Duke Ellington numbers as well, and you have a nicely balanced programme – the first half closed with a swinging version of Ellington’s “Jump For Joy” (O’Higgins would have had Dexter Gordon purring) that made you wonder why it’s not one of the most played of all Ellington material.
Brubeck must be a good guy to work for. O’Higgins – a player with a worldwide reputation -plays with him in several formats. Matt Ridley was virtually unknown five years ago but has since become a first-call bass player and a leader in his own right, and Wesley Gibbens’ flexibility and familiarity with South African patterns makes him a considerable asset – and they’ve both been with Darius since at least 2008.
In any Darius Brubeck concert it’s easy both to see and hear that we’re in the presence of a man who grew up when giants walked the earth – indeed his very parents among them. But there’s nothing of the big star in his demeanour – a recognition that, yes, he’s the leader, but a friendly relaxation and affability with musicians and audience that can’t be anything but wholly natural. To an outsider, the Brubeck name seems perhaps almost as much a disadvantage as a blessing. On the one hand Darius Brubeck grew up when jazz immortals were not merely household names, but household visitors. On the other, it must be a terrible thing to be defined as your father’s son rather than in your own right. That’s for Darius rather than us to worry about, and anyway, he’s surely used to it by now, and he wouldn’t be forgiven if he didn’t close the programme with “Take Five” for the ten-thousandth time (musing, perhaps at the irony that in 1959 the record company was reluctant to issue Time Out on the grounds it wouldn’t sell enough copies). But the old warhorse comes up smiling each time; it gives the imperturbable Wesley Gibbens some serious exercise and is pretty well guaranteed to get the full house demanding an encore. Another Ellington piece, a nicely-judged “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” with just a couple of choruses each was the perfect choice.
Elaine Delmar and her Quartet (September 2013)
What a great evening . Thanks to you all for arranging it. My guests really enjoyed the whole experience.
From Bryan F
Georgina Jackson Sextet (April 2013)
What a joyous evening! It was just one gem after another and tremendous fun from the word go – Pete Long saw to that!
After the great concert by Sharp,Campbell and Adams in March it seemed impossible that could be bettered – but I think it was!
Well done to all concerned and here’s looking forward to more of your monthly treats!
Sorry about all the exclamation marks but it’s a thrill just remembering the great evening we all had.