I’m not sure I can remember the last time I was at jazz gig that wrapped up with a sing-a-long, but trumpeter Steve Lands was irresistible as he declaimed the verses and egged on the cheerfully dis-inhibited crowd for the responses and chorus of L’il Liza Jane. It was the encore and the packed Hen and Chicken had been thoroughly won over by two blistering sets from the return of the New Orleans based band last Sunday. The trio of pianist Andrew McGowan, bass player Jason Weaver and saxophonist James Partridge (on Baritone for the evening) have been constants in the line-ups that have visited over the last year. This visit saw Willie Green III powering the quintet from the drum chair. It was two sets that covered plenty of bases. They launched with dense contemporary jazz, drifting horn hooks over spikey bass and percussion figures and urgent swing and furious blowing from Lands and Partridge on Sitting Bull Beckons. Newly minted originals, Andrew’s Blues, Steve’s Samba, Andrew’s 6/8 thing showed their skill in taking familiar jazz materials and forms, twisting them and opening them up for fluid improvising. A howling, squealing bleak solo from Lands over the chiming piano chords of a Partridge penned ballad was a stand-out moment of the first set – no surprise that the trumpeter is an increasingly in demand player. Partridge was formidable all evening. Whenever he stepped up the emotional temperature went up, whether blowing flurries of notes or letting long notes and a delicious tone from the baritone sax carry his thoughts. As the gig went on, the dynamism and fluency of Weaver’s bass playing shone through and by the time the inevitable second line groove kicked in on one of his originals, the band were steaming and the smiles broad all round. A band of mainly New Orleans natives who all met on the Crescent City’s scene, they bring an exuberance and desire to connect which is infectious and once again it wowed the near capacity crowd at the Hen and Chicken. Another side of their generosity and musicianship was on display the following evening when they showed up at the regular fortnightly jam session at The Canteen. The occasion was captured beautifully here by Tony Benjamin, who is once again chronicling much what’s interesting and exciting in Bristol on the Bristol 24/7 site.
An August week in the west – Part 1 : The Session in town