Chris Ingham Quartet, 9 February 2018

As Chris Ingham explained in his articulate and elegant interludes, it is a sad and surprising curiosity that the film celebrity of Dudley Moore has eclipsed his music to the degree that it has all but dropped from sight. What this splendid quartet has been able to achieve is not merely to bring the music back to life but also to reveal its depth and appeal. In anticipation, anyone might expect jaunty,

vivid tunes, but Moore was a highly trained musician with seeming, effortless creative capacity and his harmonic and melodic inventiveness would stand scrutiny by the most discerning chamber musicians. Of course, these numbers were also a lot of fun—there was no attempt to downplay his comedic career, satirical bent or capacity to turn out a bouncy, vivid tune. But as Chris Ingham reminded us, Moore was also a highly regarded jazz performer, so the largest part of this performance comprised four fine jazz musicians doing what they do best, all overseen by the spirit of Dudley Moore.

In a well-considered piece of stagecraft, Chris Ingham’s scene-setting about Moore’s character and the backgrounds to the chosen numbers—all from the peak of his writing and performing career—gave the overall programme a coherence through the rather touching human story of Moore’s life. But none of that got in the way of the music, which wasn’t long in sweeping up the audience into the pleasure and variety of the songs.

This was a very well rehearsed quartet, wholly at ease with music they plainly relish, but without diminishing their improvisatory appetites. Led by Chris Ingham’s deft arrangements—(there doesn’t exist any sheet music for many of the numbers we heard: they had to be transcribed from out-of-print vinyl records)—the music was utterly delightful. But most noticeably in the piano parts, the harmonic beauty of the music was the evening’s revelation. A rendering of the theme tune from the film ‘Bedazzled’ was particularly effective; and it was not alone in revealing an undertow of sadness, something almost elegiac in the slower numbers. These were mixed with ‘jazzier’ tunes, together with a Bossa Nova and even a waltz. Chris played all of these with precision, grace and swing.

Trumpeter Paul Higgs wasn’t confined to underscoring the comedic and satirical sides of the music (though he did that, too); and on both trumpet and flugelhorn, he was able to display and burnish the fine melodic lines of the songs. Support from Geoff Gascoyne and George Double could not have been more apt—nor indeed, more pleasurable. ‘Support’ seems a rather thin term to apply to musicianship at this level, and with such tight integration.

Late in the second set, the quartet entered the stratosphere and stayed there, leaving behind Dudley Moore’s other careers, his quirks and sadnesses, restoring us to the beauty and thrill of hard-swinging jazz. That’s as fine a tribute to the man as any conceivable; and by the end, both band and audience were at one with that.

Chris Ingham, piano

Paul Higgs, trumpet and flugelhorn

Geoff Gascoyne, bass

George Double, drums

© J.Whitman

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