Hill-Street Jazz Collective
10th January 2020
The Hill Street Collective is made up of musicians we have seen here before in other groups. Ian Hill on tenor and soprano sax, Steve Street on drums, Rich Hughes on piano and Mike Green on double bass – a classic modern jazz line-up.
Collective is an apt name, as they play with rapport, invention and varied arrangements. Ian has a clear, relaxed style on sax, with a full tone maintained throughout the register. Rich is a pianist with a prodigious technique. Mike can be relied upon to provide a rock-solid bass to go with Steve's impeccable drumming and drive the rhythm along. All play with feeling for the music and are able to produce well-built, inventive solos that trade off each other.
The first set kicked off with 'On Green Dolphin Street', gradually building momentum. Then an original composition, 'Art For Art's Sake'. This had a real Jazz Messenger feel, with good solos from Ian and Rich plus a characteristic Blakey Press Roll or two from Steve. And so it continued.
In each set we had a number by the trio, allowing Rich to stretch out on piano. Two examples of jazz piano at its best. 'Tiko Tiko' had a lively latin feel and marvellous thematic development in the piano solo - shouts of 'wow' from the audience! Bass and drums weren't bad either with a strong duet between piano and drums.
We also had several ballads by the quartet. And I have to confess a fondness for slow ballads. They allow you to fully appreciate the skill of the musicians and quality of their music (swinging and maintaining momentum at slow tempo is not easy either). All were of a high standard; and none more so than the Collective's examination of 'Body and Soul'. A perfect source for beautiful melodic lines from Ian's tenor and equally inventive solos from Rich and Mike.
All this, and Devon joined in to add his vocal skills for a romp through 'Lullaby Of Birdland'.
The second set started and ended with a blues: Parker's 'Billie's Bounce' and Monk's 'Straight No Chaser'. The latter was an encore, loudly requested by a packed audience who had enjoyed top class live jazz throughout a varied programme of original compositions and standards.
By general consent this was one of the best nights of jazz here in a long time. Happy New Year.
(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)
Billy Thompson Gypsy Style
14th February 2020
Always a popular visitor, violin virtuoso Billy Thompson drew another big crowd to the Bonded Warehouse for his Valentine's night gig.
Kicking off in trio form with guitar and bass accompanying we were straight into Hot Club territory with 'All the Things You Are' featuring a nice guitar break from Andy Mackenzie. Next up, Ivor Aldred joined in on harmonica for a swinging version of 'All Of Me'. Then a change of mood with one of Billy's own compositions, 'Every Time I Close My Eyes'. Written for his wife this was slow and melodic with Billy exploring the full range of his electric violin, one long solo from start to finish, lovely. Back to pre-war Paris for 'Swing 39' with the Reinhardt line played on violin. Taken at a jaunty tempo this featured a harmonica break and then Billy taking some interesting melody diversions as the number drew to a close.
'Romanian Folk Fore' had Billy really sawing away at his instrument and was followed by the equally energetic 'Avalon' with great harmonica solo and Billy plucking the strings and bow tapping for percussive effect. The first set was brought to a thrilling climax with 'Manha De Carnival', starting slow with some nice Spanish flavour from Andy on guitar and quickening with solos from harmonica and from Greg Robley on electric 'double' bass. The whole piece brought to a rousing finale with Billy striding around the room and thrilling the crowd with some dazzling fiddling.
'Tchavolo Swing' opened the second set in jaunty gypsy style before JABW promoter Devon Harrison joined for a Valentine's Day rendition of 'My One And Only Love'. Ivor 'directed' the trio in a spirited performance of Vittorio Monti's 'Szadas' based on a traditional Hungarian folk tune with many mood changes and more virtuoso work from Billy.
Pausing to pay tribute to one of his music inspirations the late John Hiseman, Billy recalled his time with Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia before treating us to one of Barbara's compositions 'Little Annie Ooh' which provided a gentle and reflective interlude. Upping the tempo again 'Cherokee' was the opportunity for all to solo before getting underway with 'Blues Drag'. Always an audience favourite, this began at a leisurely tempo featuring some great bluesy guitar from Andy on his vintage Gibson semi acoustic. Then some great vamping from Ivor on harmonica as the intensity of this one really increased. Final number of the evening was 'Dark Eyes', another of Billy's tours de force and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. This Russian gypsy tune again featuring some excellent harmonica contribution just got faster and faster with Billy dancing energetically and running round the hall to earn a standing ovation from the packed audience. Once again, a fantastic performance from the Welsh violin wizard and his band and an unforgettable evening at the Bonded Warehouse.
(Frank Pizzey is a volunteer at Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse.)
Wendy Kirkland Quartet
13th March 2020
The Wendy Kirkland Quartet returned to the Bonded Warehouse after an absence of 18 months. Up front we had Wendy (piano and vocals) and husband, Pat Sprakes (guitar); and a different rhythm duo of Mike Green on bass and Steve Wyndham on drums. Mr Reliable, Mike Green, is well known to BW audiences, whereas Steve Wyndham is a regular with the Quartet.
Since her last visit, Wendy has had well deserved success with her second, more ambitious album – The Music's on Me. The programme tonight was drawn partly from songs on this and partly from songs on her earlier Piano Divas album. I have seen Wendy, in Quartet and Quintet, three times in the last year, but there is always something different each time.
The first set got underway with 'Sunday in New York', taken at a brisk tempo, before moving on to a waltz, 'Haven't We Met', then the first of several with a bossa feel, 'Sandalia Dela'. The Quartet do bossa well with an understated Brazilian feel, not the commercial variety. 'Some Other Time', at a slower tempo, was notable for the introduction: a lengthy piece of solo piano by Wendy, showing what an accomplished and stylish pianist she is.
The second set started with 'Slow Boat to China', which resonates with me. When hearing it on the radio, my attention was captured by the piano solo and I had to get the album. The set continued with the Quartet subtly building the momentum with good solos all round.
The concluding, up tempo 'I Love Being Here With You' stood out in this respect, allowing each member of the group to stretch out and show their individual strengths. Pat followed Wendy with an inventive, nimble-fingered guitar solo; Mike showed just how to play a bass solo; and Steve showed what a fine drummer he is.
The sadly depleted audience made up for their lack of numbers with their loud acclaim and demand for an encore. They had enjoyed an evening of top-class music from someone who is deservedly building a strong reputation, not just within these shores.
And so 'I Can’t Give You Anything But Love' brought Jazz At The Bonded Warehouse to an end for this month, to resume we know not when. Hopefully back soon.
(Ian Scott leads the Kingswinford U3A Jazz Appreciation group.)
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