The last of the season’s Jazz at the Vaults gigs saw Lee Goodall cross the bridge from Newport (which season was in some doubt as the reliably witty host, DJ Tony Clark referred to its re-naming as the ‘early autumn’ season). On keys for the evening was John Paul Gard, standing in for the house trios regular Vyv Hope Scott. It was this pairing that gave the evening added zest, John and Lee having recently recorded together and knowing each other well. Lee is a multi instrumentalist and composer of beautiful music but alto and standards was the menu for the night, selected from a long list plucked from his pocket at various intervals. Lee’s playing has an instant emotional impact. The warm alto tone and phrasing of themes, hanging back back on the beat and sketching out of a familiar tune never fails to make me catch my breath, whether on ballads (Sonny gets Blue, a gentle latin version of Soul Eyes) or more uptempo swings (Solar, Cherokee). There is constant rhythmic invention too:Lee’s also a great drummer and has a way of playing phrases at the end of sections that seem to hurl you into the next bit of the tune with a notch up the excitement register
But it was the jousting and interplay with John Paul that gradually gave the evening a particular identity. The blues is never far way in both players language. John Paul’s love for gosepelly progressions and re-configured blues progressions provided some stand out moments. As Lee ratcheted up the intensity on Mercy Mercy Mercy you could hear why Van Morrison hired him. A rousing finish to the year for the Wine Vaults with Trevor Davies and Wade Edwards in the rhythm section reminding us why so many top class players want to return for a gig here. Toni Kofi, another top drawer sax player will be along in September so there should be plenty of life in this regular session when it returns in the real Autumn.