There’s often a moment in a gig when, to the listener, something seems to shift, the air thickens or there’s a mysterious shifting of gears and what was ‘just’ great, morphs into ‘forget words, just feel it’. Henry Lowther’s band Still Waters are pretty special whatever they’re doing, but to my senses, something seemed to really spark part way through the first set as they played Capricorn, a tune written for the band by saxophonist Pete Hurt.
Hurt’s artful writing launched a fanfare like theme over an urgently swelling chord sequence, a tension-building interlude adding to the momentum. The barely contained energy of the written section burst into varied solos, different rhythmic character seeming to emerge in each; this band were really tuned into each other. It was especially impressive on that score as Flo Moore on bass, was stepping into the very large shoes of band regular, Dave Green. She found a skipping, broken pulse under Barry Green’s piano solo, playing off the angular phrases and melodic fragments he was spinning out, building anticipation so that when they launched into a driving swing, she and Green locking with Paul Clarvis on the drums, the music fizzed with energy. They were flying.
Lowther’s generous spirit suffuses this music. There’s an expectation that something exciting will happen, and space was cleared for us to hear all the musicians. The leader’s own sound and phrasing were a constant joy however. He seemed to find the perfect phrase to twist and launch a solo in a new direction every time.
TL after a chanting, crafted theme with a typically, energising rythmic hook driving it on, launched a Lowther solo of big swooping phrases. Amber, saw Green conjure a moment of magic with an intro , insinuating ringing tones from the BeBop’s old upright piano, ushering in the romantic ballad, embellished by his often bittersweet lyricsm before Lowther’s keening voice on flugel horn pushed it on. Something Like with an insistent, vaguely middle eastern pulse gave everyone space to stretch out. This was music full of invention and character.
This visit was part of a tour for the band marking the release of their album Can’t Believe Won’t Believe. Can it really be a 20 years since the last one? The energy and chemistry of the band make it clear that they’ve been playing together and made for a special treat for the BeBop club, and a reminder that Lowther, a constant presence on the British (and international) jazz scene since the 60s, is still at the height of his powers.