Simon Purcell Quintet at the Vortex London, November 5th

Simon Purcell Quintet at the VortexIts great seeing Simon Purcell’s band out playing. Simon is a fantastic musician, pianist, composer. But many people probably know him through his work as an teacher and jazz educator rather than as a performer.

So Wednesday night was a relatively rare opportunity to hear what jazz sounds like when its Simon’s choice. This is star studded quintet in terms of British Jazz with Chris Batchelor (trumpet) and Julian Siegel (saxes) in the front line. The words that stick in my mind from the sets are ‘wisps’ and anthemic. The themes of tunes were either wispy, fragments of melodic lines, often played over an urgent driving, jazzy, pulse or slower haunting lines, often over a catchy repeated figure from bass and piano. The overall effect was very intense. Sometimes quite dark but very emotional. In case you’re wondering, I’m trying to describe the music without saying ‘sounds like …. ‘. If I was to do that, then Simon’s own description will do: “the music lies somewhere between spq at the vortexMiles, Wayne Shorter and Dave Douglas“. Check out some samples at . That description is about right. Pandora for instance could almost be a Wayne Shorter theme.

So I really enjoyed this gig. The playing was exuberant from everyone and just right. Just when my nerve endings could take no more intensity, an equisite reading of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ emerged through the sizzle of Gene Calderazzo’s cymbals to melt the audience’s hearts.

In a curious way, this could have been a bit of a pressure gig for half the band. They all teach at various London colleges, and a number of the audience (myself included) were either current or former students or have done summer schools with them. So there were a few people checking out their ‘jazz parents’. They definitely passed muster in my book!


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