Jake Fryer, St. James Wine Vaults, Thursday 20th October

I’ll confess that this was a new name to me when this touring group appeared as a listing on the Jazz at the Vaults programme. Sideman, John Critchinson was not. As we arrived and spotted the Vaults own Wade Edwards on bass, head down and locked in a swinging pulse with drummer John Sargeant there was another familiar face. It was a striking comparison to hear another alto player standing on the same spot as Alan Barnes the previous week, playing firmly be-bop rooted music, some of the same tunes and similarly overt references to Charlie Parker.  The highlight of the evening was the wicked grin of John Critchinson as another standard (There will never be another you, Caravan….) unfurled and he dug in. As DJ/ Compere Tony Clark and I nodded approvingly at one of his artfully constructed solos, building phrase one phrase and upping the tension, we wondered at just how many of the legends he’d worked with whilst in Ronnie Scott’s band. There’s a nice little bio here. Somehow he just oozes a sense of the ‘real deal’. Tony also has a nice story about seeing a nervous 17 year old Critch sitting in at a jam session in Bristol and wowing the assembled crowd (that was a few years ago!).  The leader Jake Fryer on this evening had an energetic style, spitting and barking flurries of boppish lines out and a distinctly individual style on the microphone – a cross between Jools Holland on speed and Frankie Howard, lots of high pitch banter and ‘oh my gosh’. Some of Fryer’s originals brought out his most affecting playing of the evening. There was a lovely original bossa (based on the harmony of All the Things You Are we were told), and the soulful jazz phrasing of the alto warmed the Vaults and help the club weave its magic – a warm jazz cellar beneath the streets of Georgian Bath.

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