Sunday, 21 April 2019

Jazzmen have a spring in their step — plus a dash of Henry V

Jazzmen have a spring in their step — plus a dash of Henry V

Jazz in the Round #3 | Kenton Theatre | Wednesday, April 3

THE supreme artistry of Christian Garrick, arguably the world’s finest jazz violinist, thrilled the audience at the third Jazz in the Round concert at the Kenton Theatre last Wednesday.

In the company of long-term associate Dave Gordon at the keyboard, he presented a richly varied programme which filled the theatre with the warm glow of April sunshine.

The gentle strains of the Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne standard Time After Time opened the concert in dedication to Stéphane Grappelli, the foremost inspiration in Garrick’s musical career, before we were swept along by the sheer pace and vitality of Bud’s Bubble, a modern jazz classic penned by bebop pioneer, Bud Powell.

And thence to It Might as Well Be... — a delightfully witty evocation of the splendid recent weather, with birds chirping in the background, in which Garrick held off revealing the last word of the title until he had played the last note of the tune — “…Spring,” he announced with perfect timing.

The violin is a much-maligned instrument in jazz, and yet in the hands of a master musician it has a range of expressive qualities unmatched by any other — with the possible exception of the piano.

Garrick demonstrated this to remarkable effect in the melancholic beauty of Michel Legrand’s You Must Believe in Spring.

Dave Gordon, a wonderful pianist with a precise and feather-light touch, surprised everyone midway through Toots Theilemans’s charming waltz Bluesette with the introduction of a melodica. (Do you ever remember finding one of those in your Christmas stocking?)

A novelty? Perhaps? But what a brilliant way to emulate the distinctive sound of Toots’s harmonica and, as Garrick commented, “to summon his spirit into the theatre”.

The elegiac Here, There and Everywhere, one of Lennon and McCartney’s best-loved compositions, paid tribute to another key influence on Garrick’s life, Johnny Van Derrick, an amazing violinist who played violin on the Beatles recording and countless others — largely, it has to be said, without credit.

A gentle samba by the Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell — his real name, his father having named him after the founder of the scout movement — segued into an interpretation of Sibelius’s Karelia Suite, which set feet tapping and heads nodding with its dramatic fervour and brought the first set to a close amid whoops of joy and wild applause.

The second set opened with the bittersweet sentiments of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most — a reminder that spring, like love, can betray its promises. Not surprisingly, lyric writer Fran Landesman was known as “the poet laureate of lovers and losers”.

English Isobars, an original composition by Dave Gordonl, explored the mood swings and turbulence of our native weather patterns (or should we say ourselves?) to startling effect — for me, this was the absolute highlight of an evening packed with outstanding performances.

Who would ever have imagined that Touch Her Soft Lips and Part from Sir William Walton’s film score for Henry V could ever find a place in a jazz concert? Why not, though? Its lyrical beauty held the audience spellbound.

In stark contrast, Keith Jarrett’s angular In Love in Vain was full of sharp edges and rapid-fire exchanges between the two combatants. Great fun!

Dave Gordon’s melodica made a comeback on Conception — a tribute to its composer Sir George Shearing, who would have celebrated his hundredth birthday this year.

Its accordion-like qualities filled out the ensemble sound and reminded us that Sir George began his musical career on that humble instrument. The great man would have viewed Gordon’s elegant piano lines with immense pride.

Steve Swallow’s racing Ladies in Mercedes brought the concert to an end. But how could Garrick and Gordon ignore the loud calls for an encore, duly obliging with an earthy blues, the welcome reappearance of the melodica and an hilarious violin/wordless voice solo by Chris Garrick, before taking their final bow.

In a short time, Jazz in the Round, the brainchild of Dennis Harrison and Paula Price-Davies, has established itself as a hugely popular feature of the Kenton Theatre.

Chris Garrick remarked on how much he and Dave Gordon enjoyed the intimacy of the set-up. “We almost expected you all to join in,” he told the audience.

The next Jazz in the Round concert at the Kenton is on Wednesday, May 15, and features the talents of singer Brigitte Beraha and keyboard player Frank Harrison.

Then on Wednesday, June 19, jazz guitarists John Etheridge and Pete Oxley will be doing their thing at the New Street venue.

Both concerts start at 7.30pm and tickets are £20. To book, call the box office on (01491) 575698 or visit

Trevor Bannister

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