Simon Spillett Quartet, 19th February 2016

For music lovers of every stripe, there’s a lot to be said for a sense of adventure—the delights of surprise and the chance of a new discovery await the curious. But it’s difficult to surpass the sense of keen anticipation that precedes a high octane band that never fails to deliver. There can’t have been many in attendance unfamiliar with the reputation and past performances of the Simon Spillett Quartet—and for those lucky few, it was the best of both worlds.
simon
Simon Spillett is a phenomenal tenor player. ‘Powerful’ comes most readily to mind, but that adjective could also be applied to high-volume, raw-toned speed merchants. But Spillett is a master musician, not a one-trick showman—and there wasn’t a number in which some of the finer expressive potential of the tenor saxophone didn’t appear. His combination of speed and articulation are amazing; the long, improvisatory lines were wondrous to follow—and never lost to smeared notes or squawks; and his range of tone color and command of the instrument’s nuances were not left to the occasional ballad. His entire performance was an object lesson in what it means for a musician to play ‘powerfully.’For a soloist of lesser stature, the rhythm section would count as scary: this was an all-star band who can and do play as a band. The queue of British jazz veterans forms behind pianist John Critchinson, whose experience includes having  played in Ronnie Scott’s quartet throughout its existence. He was on relaxed, attentive form and his solos were brimming with ideas. Arnie Somogyi’s bass underpinned both sets—and his solos, too, were a treat: so very well constructed and beautifully expressed. And on drums, Clark Tracey’s exchanges with Simon Spillett were as fun as they were ferocious.

In New York, you would pay serious money to enjoy a single set of music of this quality—and on the night, you would have searched high and low to find its equal.

© J Whitman 20.02.2016

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