Patsy Gilbert and Jenny Smith, vocals.
Richard Ormrod, saxes, flute and clarinet.
Ben Gilbert, piano.
Pete Rosser, piano and accordion.
José Canha, bass.
Caroline Boaden, drums.
In a year marked by uncertainty and disruption, Wakefield Jazz didn’t escape entirely, but thanks to quick thinking by the Promoter and Treasurer and a bit of good luck, the peak of the year’s music-making was saved from cancellation. First things first: We were to have enjoyed the ever-wonderful Tina May and her band, but at short notice, she fell ill. Before anything else, we hope that she feels better soon. Our warm wishes were also conveyed on the stage.
But what to do? Improvise, of course! This entailed rallying the considerable local talent for a Christmas gig that turned out to be rather special. Pete Rosser, the promoter of Wakefield Jazz, himself a formidable pianist, was joined by Ben Gilbert, another fine pianist whom we can now call our own, plus two vocalists-Patsy Gilbert and Jenny Smith. They were ably supported throughout by José Canha on bass, Caroline Boaden on drums and Richard Ormrod on saxes, clarinet and flute.
The club’s Christmas tradition of a three-set gig was divided between the pianists and the vocalists, with a rousing final set with everyone joining in. In performance, the musicianship always seems familiar and relaxed, but part of the magic is knowing that there was little time for preparation and rehearsal—that’s the measure of their talent.
First up was Patsy Gilbert, accompanied by Ben Gilbert. Patsy has a powerful, soul-inflected delivery, but also clear articulation and great warmth. It is unknown how many instruments Richard Ormrod can play. This evening, he managed four across all three sets, bringing vivid colour to each song, quite aside from his own entrancing improvisations.
The second set featured Pete Rosser and Jenny Smith, a vocalist very reminiscent of Anita O’Day, her well-chosen material delivered in such a way as to make the listener feel it was personal to them. Her voice was a solvent for social distancing. Those familiar with Pete’s attentiveness and responsiveness could savour every nuance he brought to his playing. José and Caroline provided carefully controlled, unflagging support.
The final set was the traditional, Christmas-themed suite of numbers, but with a few jazz-inspired twists, of course. Ben Gilbert’s arrangement of ‘Last Christmas’ stripped it of its wistfulness, converting it into a compelling dance number. The final song of the evening was a take on ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, in which Pete Rosser played accordion to Ben Gilbert’s piano, the melody instantly recognizable, through what could fairly be described as a township jive rendering. As a Christmas sermon might express it, we were thus behoved to be of good cheer—but no need for that; and to all a good night.