Lets not dwell on the strike in Spain that meant Will Vinson was unable to get to the Coronation Tap for this gig with a fantastic band. They made it and, as first Josh Arcoleo joined in late in the first set on tenor and then James Gardiner Bateman in the second on alto, if we thought about Will, it was him who was the object of sympathy for missing out, not us. A gig in The Coronation Tap is an intense experience simply because of the proximity of the band (I hope I haven’t caught drummer James Maddren’s cold). Top class bands often feed off the energy and response of an audience and that effect seemed to be amplified tonight adding to the intensity. Lochrane, maestro on flute appeared to be directing proceedings in that he was providing the repertoire. They limbered up on a Billy Strayhorn composition UMMG, the straight ahead swing had a very contemporary feel as Maddren on drums started the evening as he meant to go on, keeping a surging pulse going whilst clattering and snapping all sorts of counter rhythms behind the theme and solos, earning the first of number of grinning sideways glances from bass player Sam Lasserson. A longer flute (alto this time) was produced for the next tune, an attractive, grooving theme by Herbie Hancock called Tell Me a Bedtime Story, but it was when Tom Cawley took a solo in this tune that everything seemed to go up a gear. He was playing an impossibly bijou Nord keyboard (we were sure the flutes were longer than lovely red thing), but one octave per hand seemed more than enough to build a solo that start with funky little phrases that echoed the tune and developed into increasingly extended runs and rhythmic volleys, egged on by, and egging on Maddren on drums. Looking round the room it wasn’t just me; there were grins on a lot of faces and roars of approval when he relented. Josh Arcoleo joined to pump up the adrenaline still further on a Chick Corea’s Litha, a fiendish sounding theme that switched between a triplety feel and blazing furious swing throughout the tune. Just when we thought the varnish would peel from the ceiling and the excitement was at fever pitch, another bravura solo from Cawley took us over the edge with phrase building on phrase and a peak reached with a block chorded rythmic duel with the drums. Even the band were shaking their heads and grinning. After that we needed a break just to start breathing again.
There was no contrived or forced virtuosity in this band. Just a bunch of London’s finest apparently having a great time mining the riches of jazz repertoire. Coltrane’s Straight Street and Clifford Brown’s Sandu were enough for the second set with the frontline now expanded to include Jame Gardiner Bateman. Lochrane was on the shortest flute of the evening for the finale and the frontline were trading choruses just to show us that it wasn’t only players of short red keyboards that get everyone’s pulse racing. What a great way to start the week.