Grabbing the opportunity presented by them both both tutoring on a jazz weekend course nearby, Andy Hague and Alan Barnes last night reprised their Text Messanger line-up that played the Be Bop Club a year ago with same team joining them (Jim Blomfield piano, Ben Waghorn, tenor; Thad Kelly, bass) except for mark Whitlam on drums. As before, the glue for the evening was Andy Hague’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of little played tunes by greats that sound like standards (Lee Morgan’s Something Cute), delightful arrangements of classic standards (Weaver of Dreams, A Train, Here’s that Rainy Day) as well as rescue missions for overplayed ones(Blue Bossa), not to mention material from the more adventurous end of contemporary small band writing (Dave Douglas’ Blue Heaven) and the odd Andy original for good measure. All this delivered at generally unhurried tempos apart from the odd burner like Bobby Watson’s ‘In case you missed it’ that closed the second set. There was a real warmth about this gig and but for the occasional grimaces, blowing of cheeks and jokey asides I doubt many in the capacity audience would have twigged this was largely unrehearsed; many of the themes had the sense of big band in the harmony and deftness of echoing, counter lines and backing riffs – not to mention those riotous shout choruses popping up now and then, delivered by these occasional co-conspirators with apparent effortlessness – apart from those grimaces! So far so familiar – we’ve come to expect this level of playing from these guys. Last night they did seem particularly on – song no matter that there was the odd tricky corner in the charts. Alan Barnes squawked, honked and squealed in response to some of the denser harmony in Dave Douglas’ composition before switching to the tenderest fluid reading of Here’s that Rainy Day’s theme. Andy having acquired a beautiful new trumpet a few months back seems to have discovered yet another dimension to his playing. He’s always had a formidable capacity to negotiate and make sense of the most complex of harmony without losing the capacity to groove, last night there was a warmth of tone and and if anything an even more assured weaving of melodic ideas through the changes. This band are a great reminder that there are plenty of riches to mined in the vocabulary and repertoire of swinging American jazz.
The return of the text messangers, Be Bop Club, Friday 27th May