Tom Rivière’s Family Band, 24th February 2017

This was passionate, committed and imaginative playing from a young band that displayed all of the qualities one might normally look for only in seasoned, high profile groups. Their format—a piano-less quartet comprising tenor, trumpet, bass and drums—immediately called to mind the classic formulations of Ornette Coleman, but the Family Band has its own voice and…

Dennis Rollins Organ Quartet,7th February 2017

To hear Dennis Rollins perform is to wonder afresh why the trombone is not more routinely in the spotlight in small ensemble jazz. A musician of Rollins’ caliber exploits the unique expressive qualities of the trombone to the full: glissandos taken out of their caricature, comical role and invested with the emotional weight of a…

Seamus Blake Band, 10 February 2017

It is sometimes said of symphonic works that the power of music is in the writing, not the size of the orchestra—and much the same applies to jazz ensembles, but with the emphasis on the improvisation. By any measure, the Seamus Blake band is a ‘power trio’—and powerful in all the ways that make for…

Derek Nash Acoustic Quartet, 3 February 2016

It was a full house and then some—so the anticipation was keen; and it was electric from the off. Derek Nash began with playing of a passionate intensity that many an able player would hold back for the end of the set—and that was just the start. This was a Master Class in the saxophonist’s…

Trish Clowes’ My Iris, 20th January 2017

For sheer variety and adventurousness, this band can’t have many competitors. It is important that improvising musicians should continue to write and perform fresh material: it hardly displaces affection for the Great American Songbook—and what musician worthy of the name would accept boundaries around that most creative of endeavours, improvisation? Nearly all of the material…

Remi Harris Trio, 13th January 2017

In his brief introduction to the evening’s music, Remi Harris explained that ‘gypsy jazz’ was American jazz with a French accent. But if Django Reinhardt created an enduring musical hybrid, succeeding generations have incorporated it into their own listening and playing; and because the guitar is now truly a global instrument, it has hybridized again,…

Josh Kemp Organ Quartet, 25th November 2016

In 1922, the composer Paul Hindemith attached an extraordinary marking to a movement of one of his sonatas for solo viola: ‘Raging tempo. Wild. Beauty of tone is of a secondary consideration.’ There was certainly nothing left to chance in the tone of Josh Kemp’s tenor playing, but it was hard to escape the feeling…

Nigel Price Organ Quartet, 19th November 2016

The best small-group jazz always exhibits a tension between the strengths of the individual players and the group sound. Much of the power in this kind of music—and this was certainly a ‘power quartet’—comes as much from sensitivity and responsiveness as from instrumental virtuosity. But in the Nigel Price Organ Quartet, we had an abundance…

The Lilli Unwin Band, 11th November 2016

It’s a privileged moment to witness a young band transition from ‘promising’ to ‘established’—and that’s what Lilli Unwin and her trio delivered. The promise alone was considerable: Unwin is a rising star, with a fine voice, capable of the expressive requirements of a very wide range of material; and in these parts, pianist Matt Robinson…

John Etheridge and Christian Garrick, 4th November 2016

There is scarcely a musical culture anywhere that has not adopted and adapted the violin: folk, dance and sacred musics of every kind have extended its geographic range and its musical expressiveness. At close quarters and when not embedded in orchestral settings, it is even possible to hear more than one of its many voices…

The Impossible Gentlemen, 28 October 2016

‘All-star band delivers all-star music’ would be a truthful headline, but by the end of the evening, the only impossibility left standing was finding superlatives adequate to two thrilling hours of music-making. There was scarcely a passage that on many a gig wouldn’t count as one of a few highlights. And riotous applause aside, has…