Simon Spillett, St. James Wine Vaults, Thursday 12th January

Back in October in JazzUK, Simon Spillett published a wry and illuminating account of a solo tour, playing with local rhythm sections. You can read ‘If its Tuesday it must be Treorchy’ here . “If its Thursday it must be Bath” doesn’t quite scan in the same way but it was our turn as  the Jazzhouse Trio hosted Mr. Spillett for the inaugural gig of the Vaults’ sixth year. You don’t have to work very hard on your jazz anorak researches to throw up the link between Simon and the fabled British tenor man Tubby Hayes. The combination of the besuited band leader, the atmosphere at the vaults and the dimly lit cellar  made us feel you could almost blink and you’d be back in London circa 1961, with the band at full stretch playing Oleo, the tenor etching out the familiar changes with a blizzard of arpeggios and be-boppish leaps. There’s even something about the tone that evokes that era and the playing of Hayes.  We were wondering if the band had approached the gig with some trepidation, given the reputation of the guest for playing at breakneck tempos. If they did, maybe only the odd bead of sweat betrayed it. There were plenty of quieter moments with a gorgeous, little played ballad called Where are You showcasing a more tender side to Simon’s playing  and Doxy, taken at a gentle medium swing settling into an infectious groove. Leavened by the deadpan wit deployed in the announcements this was an engaging and entertaining start to the year and one to blow the cobwebs away for the resident trio.

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