Borrowed Ears: Pee Wee Ellis, St. James Wine Vaults, Thursday 18th March

Distractions and busy-ness have kept me away from live gigs and blogging of late. But Pee Wee Ellis, the late James Brown’s legendary sideman, in the intimate and impeccably jazzily louche surroundings of the Wine Vaults was surely irresistible. Others thought so too. Curses! It was sold out, so this review comes to you through borrowed ears.

Presence. Groove – damn that swings. Energy. Qualities, hard to pin down, but they just seem to ooze out of the man. A nod, a final grin from Pee Wee, and the band were into There Is No Greater Love  with an unforced swinging pulse that had everyone in the room unable to stop themselves from nodding or tapping along. This set the scene for two sets of standards with the obligatory Pee Wee penned ‘Chicken’ to finish – the only out and out funky tune of the night. As Pee Wee said, growling into the microphone at the end, this was a jaaaazz gig.  We see quite a bit of Pee Wee around here. There’s a lot of guesting and sitting in, so its easy to be a bit blase. But a gig like this reminds us why he’s got near legend status. There were no stylistic envelopes being pushed in terms of repertoire or the content of solos, but the emotional force and melodic power of his playing was reminiscent of Sonny Rollins live in the way the actual material seemed to cease to matter .

The Jazz House Trio (Wade, Vyv and Trevor) rose to the occasion again, sitting up a bit straighter, digging a bit deeper and this one had really pulled the crowds in. The Vaults were bulging (and chatting loudly at the back!). There were even signs of a bit of rehearsing with some neat endings and unexpected modulations. Another triumph for the vaults then, lets hope a few of the unfamiliar faces come again now they’ve tried it. As my borrowed ears said of the evening – what’s not to like? This was a real jaaazz gig

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