Mark Bassey & Simon Savage, St. James Wine Vaults, February 5th

I really felt for Mark Bassey and Simon Savage.  They’ve put together a tour, playing with local rythm sections, bringing a pad of tunes which whilst been firmly in the classic repoirtoire domain, is given a really interesting twist by some artful arranging and a hearty kick from some full throated playing. But you can’t legislate for the weather. So in a week of the heaviest snowfalls in 18 years, they were flogging between Swansea on Wednesday night and Bath last Thursday.

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I’m going to divert briefly to wax lyrical about the St. James Wine Vault sessions. Bass player Wade Edwards started this gig two years ago now. The Vaults, to my eye, looks a bit how you might design a louche jazz club if you were starting from scratch and the atmospehere is always heightened by DJ Tony Clark’s unfailingly appropriate choices of tracks in the spaces around the live music. The trio (Wade with Trevor Davies on drums and Andy Nowak on keys) are a great unit and there’s an increasingly diverse and exciting roster of visitors. Long may it continue.

On this thursday, Tony was absent for the first time ever (get well soon!), the crowds were a bit depleted (weather?) and the cellar was a bit chilly. I could have sworn though, by the second set it was warmer and I don’t think it was the heating. There weren’t too many enevelopes pushed, but the playing was passionate and groovy, and there were some really beautiful moments from both Simon and Mark as they were featured in each set. On the heads, the arrangements of tunes like Milestones with the two horns really managed to catch the sense of a larger ensemble. I have to mention pianist Andy Nowak however; he very nearly stole the show for me (manners Andy!). His time feel is glorious so that what start as apparently familiar phrases, skid off into rythmic diversions which surprise and delight and solos have a real shape and momentum them. Overall I think this one ended  The Vaults 1 – Weather 0

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