Robert Mitchell, Partisans – Jazz Line-up at the Bath Festival, Saturday 29th May, Chapel Arts Centre

My first dip into the Festival waters this year was this double bill of two short sets, recorded for Jazz Line-up to be broadcast next week (Sunday 6th June). First up was a solo piano set by Robert Mitchell. The host, Julian Joseph introduced him (and the Partisans to follow) with a very Radio 3 analysis of Mitchell’s career and style, far more erudite than anything I can muster so I’ll just concentrate on my reactions. Cerebral, abstract, at times meditative are all adjectives that spring to mind of Mitchell’s set. This had the sound almost of 20th century classical piano as much as jazz (no debates here about .what is jazz… just trying to catch what it sounded like) There were bursts of more dynamic improvisation after those elegantly stated themes. Also striking was his technique and the fluency of his left hand culminating in a lovely piece played exclusively with the said hand – if you listen on the radio, you may have to wait for an announcement before you can tell which one it was! The Partisans then were a dramatic contrast – launching into there brand of guitar and sax led groovy, jazz meets rocky, swinging riffs. Julian Siegel on saxes manages the trick of sound thoughtful and melody driven whilst blazing away over the top a ferocious groove laid down by Thad Kelly on bass and the hyperactive, constantly surprising Gene Calderazo on drums. These two spent a fair proportion of the set grinning delightedly at each other. They do sensitive as well with the most delicate of tunes etched out by guitar and tenor (playing notes I didn’t know a tenor could do with that amount of control) on the tune Mirrors. We just knew that they would rock out to finish though, and we weren’t disappointed.  So thanks, Radio 3 for another visit and free gig – packed out, the late hour notwithstanding. Chapel Arts was looking and sounding great as well – I’ll say no more on that topic. Next up Kenny Wheeler/ John Taylor supported by Julain Loreau although there was a rumour last night that Kenny is ill. Time to find out

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