I’ve been somewhat tardy on the blog front the last couple of weeks so am dashing off impressions of the afterglow of two gigs at my most visited local clubs. First Sam Leak with his band Aquarium at a sadly under-populated Be Bop Club. We arrived as the band launched into a splashy out of time ballad with a hymn like melody and fluid, hoarse blowing from James Allsop on tenor with the band clattering and pushing him on to an emotional high. This and the last tune of the next set, a roaster called Steak (sorry!), were highlights for letting the awesome collective capacity of the band rip. The quartet, from the younger crop of London based players with Oli Hayhurst on bass for this gig and Josh Blackmore on drums made light of the leaders’ often complex compositions. The sound was firmly in the flowing lyrical territory of jazz with a European flavour. Sam Leak’s beautiful melodic inventive soloing had more than a tinge of Keith Jarett-esque playing of the European Quartet era, (an impression confirmed when checking out his website after the gig I find he even runs a band playing that material – think I’ll book them for my birthday party if I can afford it!) He’s his own man though, and has an appealing way of developing rythmic motifs and using space as well as the dazzling runs and flurries of notes. This is top drawer stuff and I’d love to see this band again and the album is out on Babel very soon. Another tenor player, this time a local (for the time being, though soon moving to London) Andy Kinsman was the guest of Jazzhaus Trio at St. James Wine Vaults last week. Andy is a fine player and much in demand as a session player (Kasabian, Noel Gallagher) as well as being an awesomely talented artist. There’s an intriguing interview here. We arrived to another ballad, this time Body and Soul, a showcase for Andy’s warm tone, beautifully judged phrasing and instinct for a upping he tension and intensity at just the right moment. The repertoire was standards with Nostalgia in Time Square, a lovely restrained latin version of Night and Day, a whispering Blue in Green and Chicken followed by Red Clay to round the evening off with a good dose of foot tapping. No boundaries pushed here, but a meeting of minds, a locking of pulses and some great soloing all round made for a very satisfying evening.