Sometimes it’s the simple stuff that says the most. Note to a young band: If you can play the theme of Bobby Timmons classic ‘Moanin’, a bluesey medium tempo swinger, so that you make the hairs stand up on the back of the audience’s neck and give them butterflies with the excitement, you’ll have entered ‘the zone’. The band were there most of the evening and dived straight back in at the beginning of the second set with this number. They ramped it up with the solos and another little truth was out. They were absolutely focussed and listening to each other intently. Jason gradually morphed the harmony into more open modal sounds and Iain Ballamy started reeling out John Coltrane quotes which he got back with nobs on from Jason as the soloing baton was passed. Grins all round. They were having a great time. And so were we.
The CVs and international reputations of these two are much rehearsed. A recent interview with Jason summarises his story and Iain’s website does a nice job for him (two .. count ’em … of his current bands with albums out on legendary ECM label). DJ Tony Clark did his usual summary with witty asides to introduce the evening, but for us humble listeners it’s the moment that counts and we were richly rewarded. From the first breath they seemed to be ‘in the zone’. Iain Ballamy really does sound like no – one else. His tone seems be several things at once: crystal clear notes (like folk singer), warm and breathy (like the great tradition of jazz tenor players) . And the phrasing is always surprising, sometime sliding round notes over bar-lines sometimes hinting at the the furious attack of the post – Coltrane tradition but always tempered with a distinctive fragility. It was there from the first note as he and Jason sketched out and hinted at the opener, ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’. The interplay between the two was one of the highlights of the evening. Jason seemed to be on fire. We had notice early on with a solo on ‘What is this thing called Love’ that started of as fragments of phrases and time disrupting delays and stabs, until they accumulated into a torrent, slipping in an out of Errol Garner-ish block chords, blistering be bop and and an unstoppable, well, Jason Rebello-ish, deconstruction of the harmony at full tilt.
If this is sounding like a standards set, it certainly was. My Funny Valentine, When I fall In love, a rythmn changes tunes (The Flintsones.. bah!) All the Things You (full on baroque treatment). I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have heard playing them. What a triumph. Did Wade Edwards on bass and Trevor Davies on drums, the house rhythm section look a tad nervous at the begiining of the evening? Perhaps a little, but they needn’t have worried. The zone is somewhere only a whole band can go and they were there too.