It’s a well worn formula: The local rhythm section hosting visiting soloists making a regular gig potentially viable and bringing great players to parts they might not otherwise reach. It’s not a guaranteed formula for success, but at St. James Wine Vaults in Bath, if repeat visits by top class players and glowing testimonials are anything to go by, the resident band of Wade Edwards on bass, Trevor Davies on drums and Vyv Hope-Scott on piano have established themselves as a must on that just below the radar informal national circuit. The last visit of the season was saxman, flautist and prolific writer Len Aruliah who has been popping up locally in between residence in London and visits to Canada for a couple of years now. Len’s a passionate and fluent player but the icing on the cake of this evening was the writing and repertoire. A whole series of melodies written over the chord changes of standards provided one thread and an insight into the writer’s melodic ear. We had Initiation (on Can’t get started), Probability (on it could happen to you), a latin twist on Stella (a spanish title meaning Little Star) – an insight into the punning tendency as well! It highlighted one of the best elements of the local band plus guest formula: when the guest brings unfamiliar material of their own, it brings out dimensions of the band’s paying that we don’t always hear, and this lot invariably rise to the occasion tonight being no exception. It was even more the case for the wholly original material, the delightful waltz ‘Helpful’ was a stand out, shifting harmonies and surprising resolutions producing lyrical flowing solos all round with a hint of a Kenny Wheeler-esqe sound scape.
This gig has clocked up over six years now without a break. No subsidy, no funding. Just the imagination and ‘make it happen’ initiative of bass player Wade Edwards, the support and commitment of landlord Neil, a great space to play in (those eponymous Vaults), the atmosphere and identify creating DJ duties and MC’ing of local legend Tony Clark, a bunch of supporters and volunteers to staff the door, promote the gigs, post on facebook – you name it (whoops for Tony and Kelveen), and not forgetting that top quality rhythm section and all those regular punters (fluctuating numbers of course, just keep organisers on their toes). Jazz Citizen nominations all round and long may it continue. They’re back in September with songstress Cathy Jones’ followed by the might Alan Barnes. See you there.