Alan Barnes, St. James Wine Vaults; Jonathan Gee, Colston Hall2 – 13th & 16th October

Life, other work anda fair bit of my own playing have all reduced blogging to a trickle of late.  A quick round up is in order of the two gigs as a punter in the last week, contrasting but both very satisfying. First Alan Barnes at the Vaults last week guesting with the regular Jazzhaus Trio of Vyv Hope Scott on piano, Wade Edwards on bass and Trevor Davies on drums. All the Alan Barnes trademarks were on display – the beautifully executed, fluent boppish lines ( we even caught a few Charlie Parker licks quoted more or less verbatim if you can quote verbatim on a saxophone – for anoraks, the first one was from bar 7 &8 of  Parker’s solo on Yardbird Suite).  The repartee was also on display, regular DJ Tony Clark put up a good showing from the home team in this department too: was there a hint of ironic amusement as he highlighted Barnes’ stint with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra in a review of the guest’s CV? Be Bop and classic swinging jazz is the territory the guest inhabits as if to the manor born so there were ‘ah’ moments a -plenty as the fizzing double time runs built excitement in solos or languid melodic lines embellished ballads. The repertoire was classic standards too, staring with Cole Porter’s Everything I Love and taking in Body and Soul, several Ellington classics including the inevitable Caravan, but in these expert hands it never seemed tired. Another coup for the Vaults.

Colston Hall2 on Sunday was the occasion for a very different but equally class act. An Ian Storrer promotion, one of the gigs booked before the Future Inns club finished and happily re-homed (although despite laudable efforts to improve the sound and refurbish Hall2 its not quite as intimate as the old setting).  Jonathan Gee’s trio play full on jazz mainly from a different part of the spectrum than Alan Barnes, although they do dodge about. One moment from early in the second set seemed to sum some of this up. Gee started the second set by singing a couple of standards accompanying himself on piano. A slight crunching of the gears after a first set of uncompromising, dense, largely furious post bop. Larry Bartley (bass) and Shaney Forbes (drums) then joined him on stage. Forbes, hesitated, grinned and confessed to forgetting the music (this was the drummer please note). So whilst he went to get it, Gee launched into ‘I don’t get around much’. After half a chorus, the bass joined (after a verbal prod from Gee), Forbes returned and the resulting de facto arrangement was a gradual gathering of momentum and the trio locked into a gently swinging groove – everyone playing time, no-one beating it out – sizzling with intensity at a very gentle tempo. A sure sign of top class rhythm section. They then returned to the planned set list and it was immediately obvious why the drummer needed the road-map of a chart as they launched into a Bartley composition full of tricky time signatures, stops starts and complex but hooky riffs. This was more representative of the evening, but the soloing was no less fluent. They positively burned on a couple of Monk tunes, a regular source of inspiration for Gee; a high energy, top class gig.

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