Bath has its share of tourists, but we can hazard a guess that it may not have been just the Georgian architecture that drew Norwegian saxophonist Petter Wettre to Bath. His mate Jason Rebello lives here and lets face it, what are two long-time collaborators and fellow former Manu Katche sideman going to do when one comes a-visiting? Well, a gig of course and with Rebello’s son George pretty handy behind the drum kit, all that remained was to rope in another Bath resident, bass player Greg Cordez and the scene was set for vintage night down in St James’ favourite cellar.
This was no stand on ceremony gig. They were having fun, bringing some originals but plenty of familiar tunes appeared, but not always as we know them. After a gently grooving Wettre original Opportunity Fox as an opener, sinuous phrases from the sax cueing a reflective solo from Rebello, Bye Bye Blackbird‘s sparked recognition. The phrases were soon distorted however, twisting harmony scripted by the vistor making us do a double take. Autumn Leaves got similar treatment later in the set and both standards sparked pulsating burn-ups. This may have been an impromptu ‘pick up’ gig, but there was little sign of that as first Wettre and then Rebello senior shifted up through the gears. Wettre’s sound walks line between classic throaty tenor and a more astringent edgy sound (he was Manu Katchu’s choice or replacement for Jan Garbarek in his band). He dug into and traced mazy patterns all over the dense harmony. Rebello was in his element piling up layers of rhythm and glittering runs. They were definitely de-frosting a chilly evening.
There were moments when they leapt beyond what would have been a merely exhilarating evening. The deceptive simplicity and emotional directness with which they played the classic My Funny Valentine stopped the breath. It was hard not to hear echoes of Miles Davis era Herbie Hancock in some of Rebello’s instinctive flourishes on that tune, an impression reinforced as he took the band through one of Hancock’s funkier tunes Butterfly – the keyboard producing a fantastic squelchy Rhodes sound. Wettre produced a sizzling original in the second set Flavour of the Month that included some gravity defying unison playing between sax and piano with the drums somehow picking out all the accents.
The evening was full of implicit nods to heroes and influences and the finale of Joe Henderson’s Recordame was surely more than just fishing out a favourite jam session tune, Wettre’s fluency and groove over the familar harmony confirming his absorption of the master’s example. That was a great finale to a fizzing evening of top class music.