Ben Clatworthy, Be Bop Club, Bristol, Friday 12th November

What do you call an LA resident with a Cockney geezer demenour? Its not Vinne Jones, but Ben Clatworthy paying his now annual visit to the Be Bop club last night, but it was the first time I’d managed to catch him. If I stick to the music, I’ll miss a lot of the character of the evening, Ben presents himself as well as his playing. The semi local rhythm section was a cracker: Jonathan Taylor on piano, Will Harris bass and Mark Whitlam drums and the evening started with what could have been a declaration of intent.  The second tune, the ballad ‘I cover the Waterfront’ was sandwiched between two Coltrane burners; Lonnie’s Lament to open and Giant Steps to complete the meal. So we were in classic tenor, post bop territory and Ben squeezes out the flurries of notes and arpeggioes with an anguished tone at times, making full use of harmonics, so that despite the full on material, there’s an almost introspective feel to his playing. Maybe not so much the geezer then. The endless banter between tunes, sketching out a knock about approach to life (literally when it comes to the hobby boxing) belies the seriousness with which he approaches the music. As the evening wore on, we got re-workings of Beatles tunes, an Isaac Hayes hit and a arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. I had the sense that he warmed up and loosened up as well. His band for the evening certainly did him proud. Jonathan T. always delights me. The way players feel rythm is for me one of the things that distinguishes one from another and gives them an individual sound. Jon’s instinct of when to stress a note, when to ‘skip’ and play of the beat as well as build phrases that pile rhythms on top of rhythms always creates magic moments in a gig. Will and Mark are equal to this and which is probably why they seem to well up the list for bookings these days. So an entertaining and engaging evening for a respectable crowd given the jazz competition last night (Porkchop with Soweto Kinch at the Old Vic and Claire Martin at the Colston Hall) and and exhausting one for the band. Ben wouldn’t stop playing! After a 70 minute first set, the suggestion of a break was greeted with… ok, just one more. The second set was necessarily shorter, but even so I had to creep out with a beautiful reading of Blue in Green following me down the steps.


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