twos on three: Horler/ Etheridge & Sheppard/ Paricelli, Jazz Line-up recording, Bath Festival, 28th May

This late evening live recording for Radio 3’s Jazz  Line up drew a good sized festival crowd to Bath’s Assembly room. The prospect of two duo sets from this gathering of extraordinary musicians was certainly mouthwatering. The duos, both featuring guitarists suggested some parallels but these turned out to be contrasting sets in a number of ways. John’s Horler and Etheridge took the stage first after the obligatory drily understated wit of Julian Joseph had warmed us up a bit. From the start the guitar played more melodic, single horn-like lines underpinned by Horler’s flowing and full rhythmic accompaniment on piano. The first two tunes, a Louis Bonfi bossa Gentle Rain and Etheridges’s own Strange Comforts were followed by a standard, Stella by Starlight, and the two protagonists seemed to go up a gear. As the theme was played by the guitar, little flourishes from the piano were picked up and developed by Etheridge a countering, contrasting rythmn or phrase would fly back from the piano. Two world class musicians deepening a rapport in front of eyes was exhilarating stuff: the self deprecating patter from John Etheridge soon revealed that this was a relatively newly minted partnership with only one previous performance a while back. Great stuff! And the newness of the first duo was only one of many contrasts with the second duo of Andy Sheppard and John Paricelli. These two recorded an album back in 2003 and much of this set re-visited  the material from that album. The ambience is dreamy, wistful music; the guitar providing gently rocking grooves and washes of sound against which Sheppard’s utterly distinctive soaring breathy phrases weave often simple folk song like phrases with subtle shifts of key and rhythm.  This music could tip over into just too dreamy, but something about the absolutely foucssed intent and subtleties of the rythmic interplay between guitar and sax mean this just lifts my heart; I knew I’d leave feeling like I was breathing cleaner air. It was also a great room for the music as Andy commented with its vaulting ceilings and church like resonances. So a delightful, thoughtful  evening. No- one was rocking in the aisles but we all made our way home a bit uplifted. It’s going out on Radio 3 Jazz Line – Up on the 5th June

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