I had moment of anxiety when I realised that i was going to see Vyv Hope Scott playing on both Thursday and Friday nights this week. Were he to have noticed, I was fearful he might think I was stalking him or making a special study. My main impression of the two evenings (watching local singer Ros Cuthbert with the house band at St. James Wine Vaults on Thursday and Vyv’s band The balance on Friday at the Be-Bop club in Bristol) was two striking thoughts. The first, not for the first time, was a warm glow at how many people there are singing, playing, composing just in our little corner of England, and really bringing something creative and thoughtful to our ears with no particular expectation of great reward – other than many be a bit of a cheer and petrol money plus bit. This is repearted in most cities and many towns across the country – what a rich vein of our cultural life it is. My second thought was what a versatile and complete pianist Vyv is. These were two very different bands and he brought the same focus and intensity to both gigs sounding very different. So Ros, while not really straying far from standards territory brings an interesting twist to a singer repertoire, choosing material that is often not sung (Night in Tunisia; Mercy Mercy), always arranged with care and includes some soul and bluesey material. This gave Vyv plenty of opportunity to give his blues and swing muscles a workout. We have taken to popping into the Vaults as a regular haunt – long may it continue – and Ros’s confident delivery and the bands tight groove made us glad we did on Thursday.
The Balance on the other hand whilst not actually playing oodles of ‘European jazz tunes’, have created a distinctive sound with guitar and piano led arrangements which brought an altogether different feel from Vyv. There were some great, gently grooving Ballads which evoked a rich melodic sound reminiscent of EST and Marcin Wasilewsky’s Trio and much ‘straight 8s’ feel jazzy progressions with lilting, slightly abstract melodic lines,often doubled between piano and guitar. I think this band should be heard more. There’s a slight sense of them getting used to the material as an ensemble; I’m looking forward to keeping track of where they go next.