Dave O’Higgins Quartet, 9 November 2017

Across Dave O’Higgins’ many appearances at Wakefield Jazz over the years, the distinguishing feature of his tenor playing is how well constructed his playing is, whatever the material or tempo. While his playing also delivers plenty of fire,

his deep and expressive musicianship is most clear in the inventiveness and clarity of his lines. This is abundantly clear in his original numbers, of course, but perhaps most striking in his approach to standards. If there’s a lovelier version of ‘All the Way’ to be heard, it will almost certainly be performed by Dave O’Higgins; and his take on ‘’Round Midnight’ restored its surprise and revealed its depths (and unusually, on soprano. More, please.)

By the second set, his ‘fire side’ was much to the fore—but without saxophone histrionics: this was passion as music—and it takes a thoughtful, artistic performer to do it well. He was abetted in this by a rhythm section that could match his abilities and standing.

Rob Barron is a remarkably versatile and responsive pianist—and the way in which he complemented Dave O’Higgins’ challenging compositions and leads was most vivid in a number which was cued as presenting a ferocious challenge to the rhythm section. But it was Rob’s response to the difficult key change that brought out a solo passage of startling inventiveness. It was at once both beguiling and thrilling, seeming to cycle through several keys but without losing sight of the melody. It was a solo that seemed to defy musical gravity.

Geoff Gacoyne’s bass playing would be a show-stealer in the presence of a lesser saxophonist. His solos in particular were a form of easy travel to other planets. His artistry was on show down to the finest detail—and like Dave’s, his playing revealed a deep musicality that not merely embraced each number but sought out its depths and possibilities.

There’s a school of thought which holds that drum solos ought to be short and to the point—but no one who has expressed that thought has ever heard Sebastiaan de Krom. Of course, his wonderful solos are something to be relished, but no less impressive was his craftsmanship throughout.

This was not only a top-drawer rhythm section plus star saxophonist: it was a superb band, on top form. However familiar the form, creative improvising musicians can always conjure up some magic. The Dave O’Higgins Quartet did just that and it was a delight to experience.

Dave O’Higgins – tenor saxophone
Rob Barron – piano
Geoff Gascoyne – bass
Sebastiaan de Krom – drums

What’s on next at Wakefield Jazz?

© J.Whitman, 11th November 2017

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