Tommaso Starace, St. James Wine Vaults, March 22nd

The parade of top drawer visitors continued at the Jazz at the Vaults session this week. Tommaso Starace, Italian born but a long IMG_2815standing stalwart of the British jazz scene brought his scorching alto technique to the cellar bar and put the resident trio through their paces.  A repeating pleasure of this session is to see how the house trio respond to their guest.  Each brings their own personality, approach to playing and subtleties of how they feel the pulse of the music.  The repertoire often as not defaults to standards with the occasional wild card original or quirky choice injected. That too can be revealing however,  heroes and inspirations are invariably saluted.  One for Daddy – o, the Cannonball Adderly classic and Firm Roots, a blistering Cedar Walton number launched the second set.   That’s wearing your heart on your set list.  There’s nothing retro about Starace’s playing though. The liquid fluency, reeling out of arpeggios and runs is a given. But he twists phrases, gradually distorts the harmony, makes lines and notes bend and stretch across the structure of something as simple as blues and injects flurries of acceleration in unexpected places, with a very hip, even and crisply articulated feel to the quaver and semi-quavers .   And the band responded.  The regulars are familiar with an exuberant hard swinging vibe from Vyv Hope Scott behind the keys. He’s got a lot of strings to his musical bow though (including the more experimental end of scronky electronica when it suits). Something about Starace’s playing brought more thoughtful probing, angular phrases out as he felt his way into solos.   It was all swinging like crazy.  Trevor Davies should probably be taking prizes for responsive and attentive drumming. He was catching every little flurry and scurry from Starace but underneath it all there was a momentum and pulse steady as rock, locked with Wade’s propulsive bass lines.   The standards were very standard.  Night and Day got an outing and the encore was All the Things You Are after they closed on a rousing version of Work Song (more Adderly brothers fare).   Standards it may have been, but Starace’s individual flare burned brightly and the trio rose to the occasion.

There’s no let up in the quality.   Next up is ‘bone legend’ Ian Bateman  on April 5th followed two weeks later by Canadian ex-pat Terry Quinney and then the legendary guitarist John Etheridge.  The season continues until July, closing with tenor supremo Alex Garnett.

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