Nigel Price – guitar
Vasilis Xenopoulos – tenor sax
Mike Gorman – organ
Pat Levett –drums
This is not a ballad band; and if in spite of the line-up anyone had supposed that the music would be low-key and soothing, they were quickly disabused. What we were treated to was two hours of utterly thrilling, fast-paced and at times electrifying performance.
Everyone is familiar with the standard format of jazz numbers—the way the melodic statement and development are followed by a solo or two before the return back to the theme. But with the Nigel Price Quartet, we had a perfect expression of that remark Joe Zawinul once made about the group Weather Report: ‘No one solos,everyone solos.’ So each of the three melody instruments advanced the tunes in a way that broke down the group/solo distinction. At times, it was a kind of relay race (albeit a deeply musical one); and it meant that stunning highlights were likely to occur anywhere—and they did, frequently.
And what fine instrumentalists they are! For all of the differences in instruments and techniques, all had a love of melody and a dedication to clean, precise expression, even at breakneck speeds. On tenor, Vasilis Xenopoulos seemed to honour the bebop tradition, even though he didn’t play in that mode. His playing was incredibly fast and clever, each of his flights full of invention and ideas: staccato bursts, high-speed, richly arpeggiated melodic lines,quoted passages—and all with power and utter clarity.
Nigel Price and Vasilis made an ideal pairing, since their levels of improvisatory facility and expressiveness seemed to arise from the same source, despite the considerable instrumental differences. And further to blurring distinctions:Nigel is at once both a chordal and melodic guitarist,
shifting between those forms of playing with a speed and deftness which meant that he delivered beautiful melodic inversions and harmonic richness in a near-seamless way. No, he didn’t make it look easy, but he restored the guitar to the kinds of musical possibilities one rarely hears from that instrument these days,despite its ubiquity. His few lengthy opening statements, such as his take on‘God Bless the Child’ were beautiful.
Mike Gorman on organ had also moved between rhythmic duties and startling solo work.At times, the melodic passages seemed to somersault, while the rest of the band looked on and smiled. And Pat Levett’s drumming had to be resourceful as well as powerful, since he was so frequently highlighted. He brought to the mix still more invention and propulsion.
The entire evening was a non-stop thrill ride and the band wasn’t going to be allowed home without an encore.
Whats on next?>