Anchorians Rugby Club

Friday 17  November 2017


If this was the final gig of the season, then it was worth waiting for, as five of the best musicians in the business served up a platter of jazz that was hard to resist. Jazz standards, modern jazz themes, Latin, and a couple of originals were all there to savour, with excellent performances all round from the band. Trumpet leader Steve Waterman and friends played with a freshness and wit that was hard to beat, coupled with improvising that was also an inspiration to a number of Steve’s students who had come along for the gig. Opening with “There is no greater love”, Waterman’s brilliant trumpet led the way before the clarinet of Marc-Stringle took over and enjoyed trading “fours” with drummer Dave Barry. Barry was also in his element on the Jobim classic “Triste” where his stylish and  swaying drumming was just perfect for this Brazilian masterpiece. This tune also brought out the best of Andrea Vicari’s fleet fingered work on the piano with a high energy and probing piece of improvising that made the tune complete. Stringle switched to tenor sax on “Alone Together” that was unusually up tempo  before leading into the Miles Davis classic piece “All Blues”. Opening with some strong finger work by Dankworth on bass, the tune blossomed with Waterman’s muted trumpet taking over with a performance that evoked the atmosphere created from the unforgettable Miles version on his album “Kind Of Blue”. However, this reviewer felt the performance was a little too fast and lacked an overall impact through being played at a quicker tempo.

The American composer, Jimmy Van Heusen was well represented with his tunes “Polka Dots And Moonbeams”, and a clarinet feature on “I Thought About You”. If it wasn’t already evident, Julian Marc-Stringle is an excellent and stylish performer, with the influence of Benny Goodman and perhaps Artie Shaw much in the forefront of both the melody and his smooth improvising. Following a burst of high energy bebop on Charlie Parker’s “Anthropology”, it was time for a ballad with Steve Waterman on  flugelhorn playing “October Arrival”.  He showed all his brilliance on this tune with a bright tone and technique that were quite outstanding. During this showcase, his measured reading was quite meditative and the sureness of touch made this interpretation into something of pure beauty.

Their last number was Ellington’s well known “Caravan”, where there were excellent solos all round, with the drums of Dave Barry bringing the tune to a heart beating finale.

But there was an encore to come! Charlie Parker’s “Billiy’s Bounce” proved once more that it was always good to go out on a fast bebop number.

Whilst the front line musicians were top class, thanks should also go to a wonderful rhythm section of Vicari, Dankworth and Barry who were magnificent in support and with their improvising. Special mention must go to Alec Dankworth who provided the biggest bass sound ever, played with a strong beat and whose solos were always so imaginative. He must be the best around!

Our thanks should go to Colin and Shirley for continuing to put on high class jazz performers at the Anchorians and despite disappointing attendances in the middle of the year, the final three gigs attendances have been far better and means jazz will continue here for 2018. See you there.


Friday 15 September 2017


Most jazz enthusiasts know the music played by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the role Paul Desmond played in their popularity, especially in the 1950s and 60’s. In fact they were the outfit most in demand in jazz, and played to sell out audiences all over the world, as well as selling records by the bucket load. This was especially the case following the release of Paul Desmond’s composition “Take Five”, a tune that even got into the Top Twenty for five weeks in 1961. Over the years, a rich vein of music was composed by Brubeck and Desmond and even now many tunes still remain in the public’s mindset.

Harry Harris and Simon Bates have been performing their Brubeck tribute programme for six years and therefore have a instant musical interaction when it comes to their performances. Harry’s pianistic creativity has earned him a reputation as one of the most gifted improvisers in the world, while Simon is simply one of best saxophonists around anywhere.

Brubeck’s Time Out album is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums ever produced and the band opened the gig with “Three To get Ready”. A tune that has the piano and alto sax playing in 3/4 time while the drums and bass produce a line in 4/4 or common time. Further tunes from this album were “Strange Meadowlark”, a number that began with an expansive introduction from Harry Harris, and also the classic “Blues Rondo A La Turk”, something Brubeck composed from hearing the local folk rhythms in Turkey and blending them into jazz and classical forms. It is a fact this tune turned him into a megastar. The band played this number with great passion and excitement that had the SRO crowd on their feet in appreciation.

From the album Time Further Out, a tune was introduced as not as a rag, not as  a waltz either, and so it was called “A Raggy Waltz”, also here was a  well trailed tune used in TV  advertisements  called “Unsquare Dance”. Before playing, Simon asked the audience for their participation and they obliged by clapping in the correct rhythm behind the tune from Harris and Bates. Quite amazing!! Pete Cater’s drumming came under the spotlight here and passed the test superbly.

Like Desmond, Simon Bates has an original tone and a melodic approach to his improvising and this was much in evidence on Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me” and a tune that Brubeck wrote in homage to Duke Ellington unsurprisingly called “The Duke”.

“In your Own Sweet Way” was music reportedly written in thirty minutes by Brubeck that was a feature for bassist Dominic Howes while “Campdown Races” was another excuse for Pete Cater to show that his brushwork was exceptional and up with the very best.

The evening could not conclude without “Take Five”, a classic tune from Paul Desmond in every sense. The band performed the tune very well and concluded with a drum solo that took Mr Cater around his kit and then back for more! Perhaps a more subtle approach might have been better and surely more along the lines of the original solo from Joe Morello.

An encore was always needed and “Perdido” from the album Jazz at Oberlin was chosen, Despite a very tricky arrangement, the band performed this fast and furious number very well, confirming they were all at the top of their game.

This show was possibly the most successful this year and paved the way for jazz to continue at the Anchorians for the rest of the year and beyond.


Friday 18 August 2017


When the vocalist is Noel McCalla, you know what you are going to get. Whether it covers soul, jazz, blues or one of his original songs, he is going to kick up a storm and give his audience one hundred and ten per cent. Faced with a pedigree from working with highly regarded jazz rockers Morrisey/Mullen and an eighteen year stint with Manfred Mann’s Earthbound, it was easy to see how he developed into an ultimate front man and one who has a big personality and stage presence to go with it. All these plusses were in evidence on this gig, where he was always encouraging his band to come forward and make their own contribution to his groovy musicianship.

As McCalla said, “ you will know some tunes and then you will not know some tunes”!. However everyone was on safe ground as he launched into a cover of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”, where McCalla’s deep, rich voice wrapped itself neatly around the lyrics to create a great opener. Van Morrison was well represented with two songs, the first being “Crazy Love”, a version that was a long way from the recording by Morrison and even further away from Michael Buble’s effort. Only McCalla could come up with a slower and heartrending performance here. The added input of country style licks from Andy Jones’ guitar was just perfect. The ever popular “Moondance” was played in a tricky time signature of 5/4, but both the singer and band made it sound easy.

American singer/songwriter Curtis Mayfield was represented with “Back To Living Again”, a song he recorded after he was paralyzed by an accident in 1996, but McCalla,  gave the song his own personal twist and originality. There was more grooving guitar behind “People Make The World Go round” where McCalla’s voice really ramped up the volume! He then dedicated his next song, “Sleepless” to fellow singer Ian Shaw for his work and selfless belief in helping with the refugee situation in Calais. Shaw has been regularly on hand to help build shelters over there and also has organised fund raising concerts on their behalf. His beautiful ballad was perfectly performed. A Sting song “Fragile” was next up with a fiery Latin beat from drummer Marc Cecil, he chance to show what he could do around his traps.

Noel pointed out that he has something new coming out soon and sang “The Real Thing” from his forthcoming album. Surprisingly, he accompanied himself on the melodica to good effect adding to the reggae rhythm, along with a probing solo from Andy Jones that wrapped up the performance quite perfectly. We all hope the album does well.

Curtis Mayfield’s superlative” People Get Ready” segued into “One Love” with emphasis again on a reggae beat, surely an audience favourite. “What’s Going On” closed the show with Noel McCalla performing in a passionate and in full voice that only he can do.

So it was ahappy and confident McCalla that wound things up and a show everyone enjoyed. Despite having a sore throat and taking antibiotics, he was still about to fulfil the gig and prove that his voice has no way diminished with the passage of time. Excellent.


Friday 21 July 2017

THE NEW SIMON SPILLETT QUARTET PLAYS THE MUSIC OF TUBBY HAYES FEATURING:-  Simon Spillett tenor sax, David Ferris piano, Mark Hale drums and Stuart Barker bass

Tubby Hayes is well known to jazz fans of a certain age, a musician who was arguably THE legendary figure of post war British jazz. He was a virtuoso musician on tenor sax, vibes and the flute, as well as a composer/arranger of great ability. Simon Spillett is at the heart of a revival of interest in him, having written Hayes biography and contributed to a documentary on his life. But better than that, Simon is an award winning saxophonist and plays with a strength and ability to entertain that surely the man he is honouring, would have approved. To celebrate his music, Simon assembled here three young musicians in Ferris, Hale and Barker, who are among the brightest new names on the UK scene, and on the evidence here, will surely be high achievers in the jazz genre as time goes by.

Launching into “Grits and Green Beans”, Simon’s formidable and exuberant saxophone bent into this tune with a scattering of notes that showed no better person was equipped for the task of celebrating Tubby himself. Barker’s bass contributed here with a fast piece of finger work before Spillett drove the tune into its finale. “The Sausage Scraper” came in as a medium paced number that provided a platform for pianist David Ferris to shine through with his great skill of improvisation, gliding over the keys in superb fashion. He told this writer “ I studied for a period at Birmingham Conservatoire under pianists Liam Noble and John Turville and then by visiting musicians John Taylor and saxophonist Joe Lovano. They added much to my love of the music and playing with Simon is always an amazing experience” Yes, David is certainly one to watch.

Clark Terry’s “opus Ocean” was from his New York session with Tubby Hayes and which gave Simon the opportunity to fire into the theme with lightning speed, that had more notes pouring from his instrument that surely nobody else could challenge. However the Ferris piano was more than equal to the challenge as his flashing hands kept up the energy with no signs of flagging. “Second City Steamer” was a drum feature for Mark Hale where he relished the chance to show what he do around his traps, while “Royal Ascot” once again saw the band in fast and furious mode. “Off The Wagon” is a well known tune by Tubby that swung warmly with good contributions from piano and bass. “Modes and Blues” was another tune from the Hayes book where Spillett’s improvised solo was highlighted over a thrilling model jazz groove provided by the rhythm section. Surely a jazz classic.

The band’s final number was “Dear Johnny B”, a tune from Hayes highly rated 1968 album “Mexican Green”. The pace never let up on this one and there were stellar solos all round, the rousing cheers from the audience were fully justified.

Simon Spillett hosted the evening with  great style and wit, and interspersed the music with stories and anecdotes of the irrepressible “Little Giant” himself Tubby Hayes. Although you may have wanted to laugh or cry , it was certainly an evening to remember.


Friday 19 May 2017


Alto saxophonist Christian Brewer has been around for quite a while now having played pop and rock sessions with the likes of Paul Weller, as well as being active in a jazz context with many of the UK’s leading musicians. However here he was, fronting a trio of excellent rhythm makers playing what he does best, a playlist of modern bebop compositions together with a couple of Latin shakers and a standard  or two thrown in for good measure.

Brewer’s style is much in the bebop tradition and reflects his love of Charlie Parker and Art Pepper, as well as British alto saxophonist Peter King . The band were quickly out of the blocks with Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” that displayed Brewer’s controlled and fluent playing and with Greening’s filling in on piano completing the ideal opener. Antonio Jobim’s classic tune “Meditation” saw a more reflective Christian Brewer here and which also featured thoughtful piano over Matt Skelton’s brushes on drums. A highly effective performance. Gus Amheim’s “Sweet And Lovely” was a medium pacer that included excellent solos from Cleyndert’s bass as well as more confident work from Greening, before the band launched into a swinging groove with Cedar Walton’s piece “Hindsight”. There was excellent fleet fingered playing here from Greening ,with the leader once more demonstrating his prowess and inventiveness on the alto sax.  

After another work out with Cedar Walton’s tune “Fantasia in D”, the beautiful composition by Frank Sinatra called “I’m A Fool To Want You”  became a vehicle for Brewer’s alto that developed into an emotional, but controlled performance by the leader. Arguably the finest of the evening.

“Just One Of Those Things” was a real swinger with Matt Skelton providing a driving base for the soloists to perform and which included a “question and answer” sequence between the drums and piano of Greening. The whole thing finished as a real tour de force by the band.

Christian Brewer switch to soprano sax for the final number “Old Devil Moon” that was fast, tricky and exhilarating and contained great playing from everyone. It must be said that the rhythm section performed superbly throughout and not only provided excellent solos, but kept Christian on his toes all the time.

It was a musically inspired evening but only witnessed by a small audience. This was really disappointing for whatever the reason, and needs to be pepped up greatly in the future. Future gigs include many attractive bands and well known jazz musicians and deserve the continued support of all jazz lovers. See you next time.   


Friday 21 April 2017.

Alan Barnes/Gilad Atzmon Quintet featuring:-  Alan Barnes saxophones and clarinet, Gilad Atzmon saxophones and bass clarinet, Frank Harrison piano, Yoran Stavi bass and Enzo Zirrilli drums.

There is nothing like the anticipation of a gig to get the juices flowing and it was good that a SRO crowd was on hand to witness the exciting pairing of these two outstanding jazz saxophonists. Despite their different approaches to playing this music, Barnes, swing and mainstream, Atzmon more on the edge of things, they had much in common. Both are phenomenal musicians who always perform with inventive ideas, but at the same time, know how to communicate with an audience.. They were here to play tunes from their latest collaboration “The Lowest Common Denominator” where they told the audience “this will be an evening of humour and superb music by a band of stars at a fraction of their true value” !

Their opening tune was “Fat Cat” penned by Alan, where the opening unison statement had Gilad on alto sax and Alan on baritone sax, before things opened out with a musical grappling match that sparked off brilliant improvisations between the two. “The Lowest Common Denominator” had a definite Middle Eastern feel to it over the slower Latin vibe, where the soprano sax and clarinet interweaved positively creating an atmospheric performance. The interplay between the band was evident on the bebop flavoured “Blip Blop” where Atzmon’s spikey alto and the Barnes muscular baritone sax produced an energy sapping showboat that had Ziriili’s drums exchanging fours with the two front liners.

Billy Strayhorn’s “Sweet Pea” brought in an uplifting reading of this lovely tune from Barnes that segued into a most tender solo from Atzmon on his alto sax. Both of them posted expressive performances that were accentuated by the brush drums from Zirrilli. A fast and furious “Cherokee” gave way to another Barnes piece “Phonus Balonus” where the two altos were in their element sparking off  each other in their solo exchanges. Barnes also wrote “Giladiator” as a tribute to his fellow partner Atzmon that had something of Gilad’s high flying pyrotechnic energy about it.

The opening theme for “In A Sentimental Mood” had just the keys of Frank Harrison and the Barnes clarinet to give it the right direction, before Atzmon’s alto led into cameo solos from Stavi’s bass and the bass clarinet from Atzmon. This was a highly affectionate and emotional performance that surely reflected Duke Ellington’s thinking at the time.

“Spring In New York” stemmed from Gilad Atzmon’s Refuge album that was recorded in 2007 with the band giving an all out high intensity and rousing ,rocking jazz showing. Atzmon’s soprano sax and the Barnes alto sax propelled each other to even greater heights of inventiveness that was truly uplifting.

There had to be an encore and Tadd Dameron’s “Good Bait” drew the short straw that was appreciated by the crowd. The gig was a great success and proved that quality musicians will always be a big draw. The music and comedy patterns proved to be a perfect combination and contributed much to a great night of entertainment.


Friday 18 November 2016


Jazz guitarists are usually happiest playing as a soloist or in a trio setting, Jim Hall, Barney Kessel and our own Martin Taylor spring to mind, but here Richard Rozze’s chose the highly rated tenor man Dave O’Higgins to share front line duties in a gig that was regarded, by many, as the best of the year. Richard Rozze may not be the best known guitarist in the jazz world, but he is a significant newcomer who has a growing number of followers through his gigs in the county and in London. It was soon apparent that Richard  was well on the way up the ladder to being a guitar master as he played throughout with elegance and moderation, while never disguising the energy and underlying eventfulness. His lack of electronics brought out the warmth and creativeness in both his solo excursions and also when he accompanied his fellow musicians. When asked about his influences, Richard  told this writer “ my formative years were spent listening to the best rock musicians around at that time including Gary Moore and Hendrix before I got into the world of Larry Carlton, Jim Hall and Pat Metheny. However my current jazz favourite is Julian Lange who plays with vibes musician Gary Burton. An amazing player who I listen to all the time” Yes , quite a journey that is not yet over.

As befits a guitar led session, compositions from guitar giants Wes Montgomery and John Abercrombie were high on their play list with “Melody For Octet” and Ralph’s Piano Waltz” respectively being featured.  The interplay between Rosse and Higgins was a true highlight, with both engaging  together with an easy going and a swinging style of musicianship.

“Wichita Lineman” gave Rozze the opportunity to give this tune an expressive and melodic treatment that proved achingly beautiful before the saxophone of O’Higgins and piano of Horler combined with their own inventive improvisations in an all round classic performance.

Joe Henderson’s “Recorda Me” gave drummer Trevor Tomkins his chance to shine with a powerful, but controlled Latin rhythm that influenced a driving performance from the band with pianist John Horler leading the way brilliantly with fleet fingered improvising that was a joy to hear. John was a huge asset on this gig as he always has a beautiful touch that is  combined with a high quality jazz sense he can be proud of. Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” was a vehicle for Dave O’Higgins smoky tenor sax with a showing that was quite haunting in its conception and was delicious in every way.

A high rolling “Bubblehead” by drummer Peter Erskine was followed by a fast, energetic  playing of Sonny Rollin’s “Oleo” with Rozze stating the opening theme before meaningful contributions from O’Higgins and exceptional unaccompanied piano from John Horler that brought the gig to a fitting climax.

This high quality gig was greatly appreciated by everyone, but now it is time for a Coljazz break until March 2017. At the moment, the bookings look exceptional, the first one will definitely be a standing room only gig so have a look at the website and see what Colin and Shirley have in store!!


Friday 21 October 2016


“ Let us get started with some old stuff” announced guitarist John Etheridge as he and violinist Christian Garrick immediately swung into “Lets Fall In Love” and the well know Charlie Shavers tune “Undecided”, both songs producing a staggeringly rhythmic and swinging approach that reminded those with long memories of the pairing of Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang and recordings they made in the 20s and 30s. This was just the start of an evening of great music where these master musicians produced a feast of interplay and sweet improvisation that made nonsense of any who thought that duos never produced exciting gigs! John Etheridge has been called one of the best guitarists in the world and together with Garrick, who was the wizard of the violin, played out a programme of warmth, lyricism and much wit that delighted on every level.

Quite how the duo create such an astonishing array of sound from their instruments is amazing. Their material is drawn from unexpected sources which explores every subtlety to the full, for example Alison Goldfrapp’s “Paper Bag” was followed by a gem of a little tune from Peter Gabriel called “Mercy Street”. Here Garrick displayed a sensitive and melodic touch together with a wide range of timbre and emotional effects that was perfect for this piece.

Garrick’s take on “Blue Moon” proved quite hilarious with his violin sounding most cat like with wah wah sounds that had absolutely no effect on the cat that was actually wandering around the room at the time!

Possibly the standout performance of the set was Ennio Morricone’s bitter sweet theme to “Cinema Paradiso” where the duo created a tapestry of exotic sounds that was almost orchestral at times. The duo then slipped seamlessly into the township high life of South Africa with Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Msunduza” before paying homage to the Hot Club of France and Reinhardt’s master work “Nuages” and a crowd pleasing thrash of “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Mean To Me”. Here Garrick’s violin bow darted across the strings in a frenzied finale to the delight of the audience.

Faced with a demanded encore, the duo turned to a country and western favourite with their interpretation of “Tennessee Waltz” that had a lilt and a little pathos that was quite appropriate for their final number.

Both musicians combined to take the audience on a musical journey through influences old and new, who were always sure of their own ability and able to sparkle and surprise at all times.

An outstanding evening of music making.


Friday 16 September 2016


One of the main inspirations for Dave Lewis was the tenor sax man Wilton Felder who played with The Crusaders led by pianist Joe Sample. The band was very popular in the 70’s and 80’s with their crossover performances of jazz, soul and even pop tunes, however Sample was also an expert composer of great songs, and in “It Happens Every day”, the Lewis take on it was one of the best you could hear. A slow burner, it contained a number of key changes that made the listener sit up and concentrate on every note played. Add Robin Aspland’s deft keyboard soloing to the soulful sound of the tenor sax, and it was plain to see there was no shortage of creativity anywhere in this performance. An all round winner.

Dave Lewis is certainly a consummate and passionate player who is happy soloing in either a funky, Ballad, or in the fluent language of hard bop, all of these genres were on show this evening.

Ray Bryant’s “Cubana Chant” kicked things off well with drummer Pollitt’s Latin beats underpinning solos from Lewis and Aspland, a front line that continued to show their rapport throughout the gig. Even Art Blakey would have been impressed with the bands vocal harmonising!

Although singer Jose Feliciano wrote the tune “Affirmation”, it was George Benson who made it popular, however the band took a softer, funkier approach in their showing that in the end appealed in every way.  “Redwood City” was another tune associated with the singer/guitarist, but this was an out and out blues offering. Dave Lewis was in his element here with his blues drenched tone and probing exploration voicing just what he wanted to say, a finger popping moment for everyone.

Freddie Hubbard’s “Happiness Is Now” hit an immediate medium paced groove with more adventurous drumming from Pollitt while Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” saw more raw Lewis and a very effective out of tempo conversation between Malcolm’s bass and the tenor sax..

Charlie Parker’s “Moose The Mooch” gave the band a chance to show their bop credentials with a performance that was elusive, fast moving, climaxing with flying improvisations from both Lewis and Aspland. In fact it reminded this writer of recordings from the original masters of the 40’s.

The final piece was “ The Nearness Of You”, the jazz standard, that was taken at a slow dreamy pace that had a mystical feel to it. combined with a harmonic line perfectly performed, in fact an appropriate tune to wind down with.

It was a pity it was a smaller turn out than usual, as it was a fine gig. Don’t forget the next session will be on Friday 21st October when the wonderful John Etheridge and violinist Chris Garrick will make a return appearance. Place on your calendar now please!!


Friday 19 August 2016


The definition of “funk” is sometimes hard to break down, but it was a popular genre in the 1970’s and early 80’s that linked soul to aggressive dance music driven by hard bass lines working towards a “groove” .In today’s market , some musicians still tend to look down on funk, as it has “too restrictive a rhythm  and

pulse for free improvisation”. Whatever!

Bringing funk right up to date is this incredible band Protect The Beat led by the Jools Holland sax man Derek Nash whose mission in life is to mix up the genres of jazz and rock and create an atmosphere where the audience is driven into happy submission. Based on bands led by the Brecker Brothers and The Yellowjackets, they deliver roaring themes that has Nashy leading from the front with his high powered and energetic improvisations that brings PTB’s performances to fitting climaxes. “Street Beat”, made famous by American tenorist Richard Elliot, was a fine example as he wound through fine soulful  and bluesy sounds that reminded this writer of the late Stanley Turrentine. Memories of the fine Morrissey/Mullen band came back with PTB’s playing of “Dragon Fly” as the alto sax and guitar of Dave Ital combined to introduce the theme before Arden Hart took over with some flashing keyboard improvising that contributed greatly to their overall performance.

Guitarist Dave Ital is a fine musician who can claw out the funkiest of chords, but can also play the sweetest of riffs, he was rightly featured in a bittersweet reading of the Annie Lenox tune “Cold” that was inventive together with a clear sense of where he was going. More evidence here why he caught the attention of the great Nile Rogers.

“Strutting Down 7th Avenue” came with a gospel tinge and a definite feel good factor, especially when Arden Hart proved he could play those revivalist sounds with the best of them. Encouraged by Derek Nash, the audience were more than happy to clap along on the offbeat and create a “O Happy Day” atmosphere. “Keeping The Funk Alive” gave Nashy’s alto sax and drummer Darby Todd an opportunity for question and answer interplay while Cottle’s bass guitar gave a star outing with a funky bass solo that received great encouragement and appreciation from the crowd.

Derek Nash announced that he would be playing his “guilty pleasure” tune as his feature on the curved soprano sax, and “Every Day” proved just that with a sensitive and lyrical reading of this slow ballad.

Nash’s “Rockin Rabbit bounced along with an insistant funk groove combined with a catchy hook that provided a springboard for fiery solos from Nash, Hart on keyboard and Dave Ital’s guitar. Once again the tune mixed gospel soul and rock ingredients that turned into a real fiery feast. Unfortunately, this tune was the precursor to the final blast from PTB that turned into a tribute to James Brown, Mr Funk himself, by which time many were up of their feet bopping along to the groove created here. But why did it take so long!!

Drummer Darby Todd should be given a special mention as the person who stoked the fire behind the band with nothing less than a controlled series of explosions and who used every part of his kit to dynamise everything that was going on around him. Followers of Billy Cobham and Tony Williams will have appreciated Todd’s attacking streak.

It is said that PTB are the strongest live act of this genre to hit the UK public, after tonight, few would disagree.


Friday 15 July 2016.


Fresh from playing with none other than David Gilmore on part of his European tour, it was back to “feet on the ground time” for Theo Travis playing straight ahead jazz at the Anchorians! Not stadium crowds, but a really good turn out to see these wonderful musicians perform.. Although the band are not regularly together, it had energy, passion, spontaneity and almost telepathic interplay between the musicians, and their secret? Marc Parnell told me “  You must listen very closely to the other members of the band and then you can play as a group”. From the start, this was a band that did not know the meaning of coasting, and was full ahead with thrilling solos over a jumping shuffle rhythm from Parnell’s drums on Jimmy Smith’s “Back in the Chicken Shack”. John Donaldson weighed in with a fine bluesy solo on piano that showed he was in fine fettle and ready to show off his brilliant improvising skills. Cole Porter’s “I Love You” was taken up tempo with more forceful tenor sax from Theo Travis before he led into a breathy saxophone treat with the ballad “I’ll Be Seeing You”. A haunting melody that was performed in a style that led you thinking of fellow saxophonist Ben Webster, a breathy fat sound the great man would have surely approved of.

Theo Travis exchanged his sax for a flute in a gorgeous  excursion into bossa nova rhythms of “Everything Matters”, a performance that was highly impressive and ended with a flourish with Marc Parnell showing that he was the driving force behind the band’s core.

John Donaldson is an astute and responsive accompanist, feeding and holding back as required so that solos from both Travis and bassist Kean can be supported. However as a soloist, he has the ability to build up a series of lines that concludes in dramatic fashion and with no sense of looseness. Two contrasting tunes showed him at his very best, on Ray Nobles “Cherokee” where he was terrifically fleet fingered with the fast theme and subsequent improvising, while on “ Georgia on my Mind”, Donaldson inverted into a passionate, bluesy zone where he wrung every single note from it into a soulful response. Totally thrilling.

Theo Travis then gave a nod to the compositions of Herbie Hancock with a fine reading of his hit tune “Cantaloupe Island” before the final tour de force “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” composed by Bob Berg .Each of the four instrumentalists  stretched out with extended solos showing off their special talents.

This was a wonderful gig of contrasting high energy swing and more tranquil sections, but each of them played with warmth and great ability that was all there to see. A must for a return in 2017 Coljazz.


Friday 17 June 2016


While much contemporary jazz is being lauded for being cutting edge and pushing boundaries, Clark Tracey and his young guns reminded us of some of the essential ingredients of the music that is sometimes missing, the ability to swing. And this thrust was made more purposeful with the inclusion of 17 year old trumpeter Alexandra Ridout, the winner of the recent BBC’s Young Jazz Musician Jazz Award for 2016. This proved an added bonus for the audience who were rewarded in hearing a trumpet player who showed great poise, playing with a shining tone and had total instrumental command. She told this reviewer “ I still cannot believe i won this award, but since then many people now know me and what I can do. I am fortunate that many opportunities have now opened up for me that I will be considering”. On this showing, Alexandra is more than OK and is surely destined to be a major force in the music..

Known for leading one of the liveliest and creative jazz groups around, Clark Tracey has always had a keen ear for new talent and the gospel themed “Jubilation” by Junior Mance, gave Chris Maddock’s alto sax and Harry Bolt’s piano a chance to flex their improvisational muscles with finely honed solos. Alexandra’s feature was the standard “You don’t know what love is” where this fine tune was played with measured grace and melodic charm that also had the added rhythmic and tripling delights from Harry Bolt’s piano. “Take it to the Ozone” was a fast and furious piece by Freddie Hubbard that drew out excellent solos from the front liners, with Tracey’s drums to the fore, propelling things along like a train.

Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Darn That Dream” was a feature for Chris Maddock’s alto who gave this wonderful  tune an assured and inventive reading, while the band more than illuminated the choppy rhythms of the Mingus piece “Peggy Blues Skylight” with a joyous piece of music making. Trumpeter Clark Terry wrote “A Pint Of Bitter” for British sax giant Tubby Hayes that was played as a medium paced swinger but had a slightly sleazy feel to it. Maybe this was to be expected, but it gave bassist Daniel Casimir and Chris Maddock’s tenor sax an opportunity to have some fine dualling in a call and response moment.

The band’s final piece was a fast and furious tune written by trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar, “Suddenly Last Tuesday” where every member opened up in a swirl of improvisational skills that took your breath away. And they all finished together!

Clark Tracey must be thanked for bringing Alexandra Ridout to the gig and who showed everyone the great ability she has on her instrument. Her all round performance was exemplary and it will be a joy to see such a talented musician mature and develop in the time ahead. Another one to watch is pianist Harry Bolt whose comping and brilliant improvising throughout, gave the whole gig a great lift off.

The band’s standing ovation was thoroughly deserved, back next year please Coljazz!!!


Friday 20 May 2016



Organising a handpicked group of musicians to play the music of Ellington and Hodges seems like a dream for both the band and audience, and so it proved. Multi sax man Alan Barnes certainly knows how to pick them.

Always an inspiration, Ellington transcended all musical boundaries and influenced people around the world with the quality of his composition. Consistantly creative, he had a never ending conveyor belt of songs that will always be leapt upon by leaders of small groups, big bands and everything in between and performed at the drop of a hat to enthusiastic crowds. Barnes has never wavered in his respect for Ellington and his lead altoist Johnny Hodges and this all star band produced a programme of both famous and little known Ellington/Strayhorn melodies that were ideal for its improvisers.

The first of these was “ Hi-Ya” a tune regularly performed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, that saw Robert Fowler’s clarinet playing a lead role in this medium paced swinger and included a high note solo from Bruce Adam’s trumpet that gave a good indication of what was to come! “Friskey”  slowed things down a little that opened with the muted trumpet of Adams before the other front liners made their contribution. The Ellington/Strayhorn pairing  composed “Passion Flower” for Johnny Hodges and led to some superb playing by Alan Barnes on alto on a tune that was both mellow and created its own subtle atmosphere. A huge blast of energetic playing introduced “Cottontail”, one of Ellington’s most popular tunes, and saw Bruce Adams emerge with a burst of notes soaring high, clear and clean in a manner that Dizzy,and Clifford Brown would have approved. In fact, he included passages of notes that are probably not in the trumpet! The Barnes bubbling baritone added to this display and took the performance to new heights. Robert Fowler’s tenor sax was featured on a Ben Webster inspired “Body and Soul” while the Hodges tune “Broadway Babe” saw an Adams inspired solo on muted trumpet.

Robin Aspland is known to be one of the best UK pianists around as his playing is always assured, intuitive and who has complete command of his instrument. Always a great listener, his support to the front line musicians was always spot on. Robin was featured on “Isfahan” from Ellington’s Far East Suite, a slow sensitive piece but full of colour and understanding of what the composer was trying to achieve.

A catchy little blues from Hodges entitled “Sideways” gave Robert Fowler a chance to show the gutsy side of his tenor sax improvising, while there were good solos from Alan Barnes on alto, and more from Adams and Aspland. An eight bar opening break from drummer Matt Fishwick led the band into “Globetrotter”, before the agile alto of Barnes took over, that was followed by another excellent solo by Fowler.

Special mention must be made here of the excellent contribution of bass man Paul Morgan, always a tower of strength in his solos and underpinning of the rest of the band, his energy and enthusiasm  added much to the overall performance here.

As a well earned encore, the band sprung into “Second Class” with the master sax man on clarinet who contributed mightily  with swooping improvisations, turns and swerves, while all other members of the band came out on top with excellent solos.

While it was wonderful to hear the radical remakes of classic jazz material, this reviewer would have liked to have heard a few more well known pieces included, such as” Sophisticated Lady”, It Don’t Mean A Thing” and Hodges “Jeeps Blues”. Ah well, next timer perhaps.

Coljazz Promotions must be congratulated in arranging such a brilliant evening, it is wonderful to witness the Alan Barnes casual musicianship, his deadpan humour, but above all, his great belief in the music itself.


Friday 15 April 2016.


Tenor saxophonist Greg Heath originates from New Zealand, but has been based in the UK since the late 80’s and has worked with such diverse artists as Van Morrison, Marianne Faithfull, Dr John and Maceo Parker. Although here, it was easy to see the John Coltrane edginess in his playing, this was offset by a softer side that surfaced on a programme of themes composed by some of the most influential musicians in jazz as well as originals from himself. John Donaldson was his fellow front line partner here and confirmed he is one of the most exciting pianists in the UK today. His fleeting finger work and harmonic sense shone through and proved more than an able foil to the Heath saxophone. A decidedly unhackneyed programme included “Yes Or No” composed and recorded originally by Wayne Shorter that at the time epitomised the Blue Note sound. The Heath treatment here was also squarely in the bop idiom from the classic 60s territory, and played with panache and confidence that never failed to impress. “El Gaucho” was another from Shorter where drummer Fell’s samba rhythm underpinned the melody that had more than a touch of Brazil about it. Billy Strayhorn’s theme “Star Crossed Lovers” was both haunting and lyrical and showed Heath at his best with this beautiful ballad.

Charles Mingus composed “Nostalgia in Times Square” and of course the opening theme here was from bass player Nick Kasel before Heath entered with a fast and spirited solo that was followed by an equally exciting one from pianist Donaldson. Any Mingus composition is full of memorable themes and this was no exception, possibly the stand out moment of the gig.

“Fact and Fiction” and “Webb” were two originals from Heath himself, the latter being a mid tempo swinging piece that gave Heath ample space to improvise and his sidesman a chance to shine, with bassist Kasel providing a lyrical solo that showed his sterling qualities on this instrument.

“Inner Edge” by Joe Henderson had a more fiery and brooding theme to it, but the tempo was high and allowed everyone to stretch out with drummer Fell providing an exceptional solo.

The gig wound up with the quartet playing Monk’s “Blue Monk”, where after an introduction from the bass, John Donaldson’s piano solo contained space and harmony that was surely reminiscent of Thelonious himself.

Greg Heath can be pleased with this gig, but perhaps next time a few more risks could be taken, he is also equally adept on the alto and flute and it would have been a more varied session to have heard something from these instruments. While the music was positively straight ahead and didn’t break any boundaries, it was also undeniably well played and always listenable.


Friday 18 March 2016 

The Derek Nash Experience featuring:-   Derek Nash alto and tenor saxes, Graham Harvey keys, Frank Tonto drums and Dave Swift bass. With special guest Noel McCalla vocals.

A jazz night or a funk and soul night- it didn’t matter. The first gig of the year was a sell out with a capacity crowd creating a really jumping atmosphere , and who by the close, were up and dancing to Al Green’s “Take Me To The River”. There is always a first time! And the reason for this excitement, was the vibrant and energetic saxophone playing of favourite Derek Nash, coupled with the equally vibrant and creative singing of Noel McCalla. Perhaps McCalla is not a name that immediately comes to mind when ticking off names of British soul singers, but on this showing, he should be more widely appreciated. With a pedigree of a long term association with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and funk pioneers Morrisey/Mullen, McCalla has earned his dues over the years and on this evidence, knows how to work a crowd.

After opening with the band grooving into Mel Torme’s hit “Coming Home Baby”, Noel McCalla launched into Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Maybe the crowd would have been forgiven for having slight trepidations on hearing this tune, but they needn’t have worried as this man could really sing and hit the notes full on. Communication was the name of the game and he continued to grab the audience so that everyone felt they were part of the performance. Stevie Wonder was obviously a huge influence with voice and songbook and the singer and the saxophonist were happy to bounce off each other with their improvisations in “Mr Know It All”. After a slow heating “Georgia On My Mind”, it was a Bill Withers song once more and a cover version of his huge hit  “Lean On Me”. Noel McCall is known for his voice range and proved the point as he brought a spine tingling falsetto element to his performance of this show stopper.

Never someone to play the predictable, Derek Nash announced that “Moondance” would be performed in 5/4 time, the same time signature as Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. An experiment perhaps, but they pulled it off and it also gave the drummer Frank Tonto a chance for a solo, only this time with brushes. It was quieter and better for it. “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” was a big hit for the group Incognito and perhaps this was the only time that the singer was a little uncomfortable with the key set too high, even for his range of voice. However he was quickly back on familiar territory with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and this was where all the musicians really took off, with Nashy’s tenor sax hitting the well known backing riff full on and creating all round excitement. Probably the highlight of the whole gig.

This show was just as much about the band as the two main performers Nash and McCalla. Graham Harvey is one of  the most witty and playful pianists in the UK and his solos with the Fender Rhodes, showed why he is one of the best around. Frank Tonto enjoyed himself immensely on drums with his constant propulsive energy supporting the front line soloists, especially his “call and answer”  slots between his drums and the tenor sax of Nash. Dave Swift on electric bass was the foundation of the band and was never found wanting in any area of band support.

As Noel McCalla conducted the clapping and arm waving, he shouted “this is not a passive gig”. He was quite right as it turned out, with the crowd happy to have their moment in the spotlight. More please.


Friday 20th November 2015.

JOHN ETHERIDGE’S BLUE  SPIRITS featuring:-   John Etheridge guitars, Mark Fletcher drums and Dudley Phillips double bass and electric bass.

There is no doubt that John Etheridge is one of music’s national treasures, a phrase often heard, but not always deserved. However this is a man who is world class in everything he does with a guitar, and although he has staggering technical ability, John also understands this is nothing without the heartbeat that can turn notes into magical and powerful music. He has spent his life alternating between club gigs and high profile concerts with Stephane Grappelli and classical guitarist John Williams, and now here he was at the Anchorians Club, Gillingham. Wonderful.

He is one of the UK  scene’s great enthusiasts and this radiated in his pleasure of playing before a capacity audience in a set imbued with mellow emotion through jazz standards, blues, bossa novas and an original of his own. John always plays with great energy and with an inventiveness second to none. Kicking off with Ornette Coleman’s bluesy “Turn Around”, the trio was in tight control with guitar and double bass in unison for the opening statement. Etheridge always gives his colleagues plenty of prominence  and even on this medium paced workout, drummer Mark Fletcher set out his stall with a tasteful solo to wind things up. “The Venerable Bede” was a slower blues where his seamless, but high octane improvisation, showed he had the blues running right through him and was very comfortable playing in this idiom. Be Bop drummer Denzil Best composed an edgy little tune called “Wee” that found these top musicians at their playful best, with drummer Fletcher treating everyone with some excellent brushwork around his kit while Etheridge was quite happy to scat along in tune with his solo. A touch of George Benson here possibly!

Always one for contrasts, the long guitar introduction to Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” was followed by the 1962 bubblegum pop hit by Brian Hyland “Sealed With A Kiss”. Although poles apart in genre, they were both played immaculately and in their own ways quite mesmerising.

John Etheridge then introduced a solo set of three tunes, “my favourites” as he told the crowd, certainly an eclectic mix that testified to his virtuosity, the opener was Sonny Rollins “Doxy” that was followed by the Mingus classic “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and finally “M’sanduza” by Abdullah Ibrahim. This was a tune where he was niftily looping bars over the top of his fluid solos of this infectious little piece, the whole performance was highly impressive.

“There is No Greater Love” is another of John’s favourites and was as close to perfection as you can get. His own composition “Distant Voice” showed he was a composer with something to say and the gig was brought to a close in grand style with Sonny Rollin’s “St Thomas”, a favourite with everybody.

We were not finished yet as by “public demand” an encore of Carol Kings “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” was played in a dreamy style that seemed spot on for the occasion.

Mention must be made of Mark Fletcher and Dudley Phillips for their considerable contribution during the gig, the trio obviously play regularly together, such is their empathy for all to see.

It was a wonderful evening for both guitar freaks and jazzers alike and ideal as the final gig at the club for 2015. It all starts again in March 2016 so watch out for the publicity. This will also be a gig Not to be missed.

Finally, a huge thank you must be given to Colin and Shirley for continuing to present jazz of such high quality at the club. It is not an easy job and I am sure there are many hassles along the way, but the audiences on the whole have been good and appreciative and this is what it is all about. We all look forward to another great year in 2016. Thanks again.


Friday 16th October 2015.


Accomplished saxophonist Kelvin Christiane has played with a whole range of top notch musicians from the UK’s Alan Barnes and Jim Mullen to American drum master Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. Armed with a battery of saxophones, he spelt out his considerable ability through a programme of high calibre jazz that communicated loud and clear to the audience. There were a fair sprinkling of Kelvin’s well thought out originals from the opener “Plasma C” where the medium pacer swung along merrily led by his tenor sax, to the lovely ballad “Jupiter”, a tune with true simplicity with a fine melodic content.  Larry Bartley’s bass was s also strongly featured here. Clifford Brown’s “Joyspring” brought about some incisive playing from the leader with his short boppish phrases on the baritone that intertwined well with Jim Twewick’s finely judged piano solo. Rogers and Hart’s “It might as well be Spring” introduced a Latin element and was taken at a sweeping and swinging pace, but Kelvin’s flute kept up effortlessly with the changing time signatures and produced a really engaging performance.

Blind jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk was much loved by everyone and unclassifiable as a performer whose style carried with it the whole of jazz history from New Orleans to be bop. He was known for playing two or even three saxophones simultaneously, producing harmony by some tricky fingering. Kelvin said that he was a major influence on his own playing and as a tribute, played the Charles Mingus composition “Nostalgia In Times Square”, a medium tempo blues, simultaneously on the alto and tenor saxophones. Included here was a Treweek solo that contributed some rhythmically propulsive playing on the piano that  brought the whole thing to a fine climax. Some people used to say this style of saxophone playing  was a “gimmick”, but who cares, Kelvin’s performance here was highly effective with great entertainment value. And a crowd pleaser too.

“Life for Lyons” was a tribute to Gerry Mulligan and gave Kelvin another opportunity to show off his ability on the baritone sax before switching back to his tenor  for John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament”.

Sergio Ricardo was a key influence in the introduction of the classic Bossa Nova to the music world and Ricardo’s Bossa Nova was a wonderful way to bring this gig to a close. In fact it was one of the highlights of the evening with some particularly fine percussive shaking by Noel Joyce and passionate playing from the leader

And lastly, let us not forget the contribution from Kelvin’s wife Lesley who sang a couple of contrasting songs, “Prelude to a Kiss” and “I’m a lucky so and so”,  with wonderful style and panache.

An excellent evening of top flight jazz all round.


Friday 18th September 2015

SUE RIVERS/ JO FOOKS QUARTET  featuring Sue Rivers vocal, Jo Fooks tenor sax, John Pearce piano, Buster Birch drums and Pete Ringrose bass

Good to see you! Following a long illness, Jo Fooks was back on the road, the nod of the head, the wide smile and genuine appreciation of the other musicians were all still there. But more importantly, Jo showed that she was playing better than ever, which is quite something given the physical knockback she received that meant she could not play her sax for a long time. But here, her tenor sound was full and round and always confident and assured as was proven on the opener “Broadway” and the exciting Latin tune “Tico Tico”. As always her enthusiasm was infectious and her excellent technique and warm tone had more than a touch of the late Zoot Sims about it, something that certainly endured her to the large audience.

Sue Rivers is well known in local jazz circles and was also given a warm welcome. Sue is refreshing in that she has a style and personality all her own and is no copyist of the great American singers such as Ella, Anita O’Day or Sarah Vaughan. At times she has the husky blues delivery of Peggy Lee as she demonstrated brilliantly on “Every Other Day I Have The Blues”, an amusing parody by drummer Dave Tull on the famous Joe Williams record of “Every Day I Have The Blues”. Jo Fooks liked this one too as she came out with some excellent bluesy tenor that was highly effective and rounded things off nicely. Sue’s set was wide ranging and covered tunes from the Great American Songbook to many other sources including “A Rainy Night In Georgia” by Randy Crawford and a fine duet with bassist Pete Ringrose on Duke Ellington’s “Squeeze Me”. A tune that was ideal for a little fun between the two singers!

Pianist John Pearce was accompanist to two famous American singers back in the late 50s and early 60s, namely Peggy Lee and Anita O’Day and still retains that light touch and space in the music that gave Sue Rivers time for her own scatting and vocal improvising. His fleet fingered touch was first rate and contributed much to the overall performances here. Sue Rivers always did justice to the lyrics whether on the fast tempos of “Almost like being in love” and “The Man I Love” to the Latin inspired “Nature Boy” and “I’ll Take Romance”. Whatever the song, she brought a warm vocal sound and engaging personality to them.

Buster Birch And Pete Ringrose completed an ideal rhythm section and both had chances to shine, Ringrose on the opening double bass and vocal duet on “Moonglow” and Birch showed impeccable brushwork with his drum solo on their encore “Man I Love”.

This was an evening of swinging melodic jazz of the highest order and everyone should be congratulated on making it a standout gig.


21 August 2015

Dave Lewis Quartet featuring:-   Dave Lewis tenor sax,  Robin Aspland piano,  Rod Youngs drums and Neville Malcolm bass.

Dave Lewis is a big man, both physically and in his tenor sax playing. He is an experienced and versatile performer and is as happy playing in a big band with Dizzy Gillespie arrangements as being up front with the late Ian Dury’s band, The Blockheads. However tonight, he was in a soulful and funky mood that reflected his real affinity with the jazz and blues saxophonists such as Dexter Gordon, King Curtis and Joe Henderson. His distinctive approach and sound had a touch of another of his hero’s the American saxophonist Wilton Felder, as man he referred to as his “saxophone god”

Dave Lewis is someone who moves effortlessly from funk to ballads into a blues and it was a funky “Black Whip” that opened the set and got the crowd going. He cites the Crusaders as one of his inspirations and Joe Samples “It happens every day”  developed nicely into a tight catchy tune that  was lightly engaging, mainly through some twisty piano improvisation from Robin Aspland that was hard to fault. Ray Bryant’s “Cubana Chant” captured the bright spirit of Cuban dance music and then mixed it up with some fine blues and soul elements. Being a tune loved by drummer Art Blakey, it was a time for Rod Youngs to demonstrate what he could do around his kit and to admire more joyous delivery from Aspland.

American organist Freddie Roach was a prominent Blue Note artist in the sixties and composed a number a worthy tunes, one of which was his “Wine, Wine, Wine”. The Dave Lewis version was equally swinging with Robin Aspland morphing his keyboard into a funky organ improvisation that caught the mood wonderfully. The standard “Love for Sale” was followed by a funky performance of Charlie Parker’s “Minnie the Mooche”, a version that was not easy on this writers ears. To create funk out of Parker compositions was not the best idea to my mind!

More happily, the band sprung into the Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” that was totally exuberant and enjoyable for the crowd.  There had to be an encore or course and Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” was the chosen tune to wind up an evening of great musicianship from a group of top class musicians who aimed to please.


Friday 17th July 2015

Robert Castelli “Boom” Quartet featuring Robert Castelli drums, Greg Heath tenor sax, Nic Meier guitars and Davide Mantovani  bass guitar.

These days jazz musicians emerge from just about every country under the sun and this gig was no exception. With Castelli from New York and Vienna, Heath from Australia, Mantovani is Italian and the multi talented Nic Meier a Swiss, but now resident in the UK. All combined under the banner of the “Boom” Quartet and throughout the gig provided a mix of witty melodies, tough swing and exciting grooves. The cohesion of the band was exceptional and all the musicians were excellent soloists in their own right. Overseeing everything was the charismatic rhythm machine of Robert Castelli who was always a forceful drummer, but at no time did he impede the improvisations of other members of the band.

Nicolas Meier proved he was an exceptional guitarist as he played a mixture of Methenyesque and world music rhythms on either his Godin nylon string acoustic or one of his two jazz guitars. As he told this writer” It all depends on which tune the band is playing, I just reach out for the appropriate instrument and off I go”. From his recent collaboration with fellow guitarist Pete Oxley, Meier chose to play his own composition “Tales” for his featured piece, a tune that was full of free floating elegance  and which had its own distinctive characteristics. A masterful performance. It was then funky time with a tune called “Lumps for Humpty Dumpty” where the drumming of Castelli, underpinned by a strong bass line from Mantovani, propelled Greg  Heath into the spotlight where his consummate improvisation, together with his emotional  power, made this a tenor sax bravura performance.

A more poignant moment came as Robert Castelli introduced a tune called “For The Fallen”, a ballad for “ people not with us anymore” . It was an appropriate moment when those in the audience could remember Don Emanuel, our former web manager, who sadly passed away earlier this year and fittingly it was a beautifully crafted piece that I am sure, he would have appreciated. At a slow tempo, the guitar and tenor sax intertwined their ideas before moving into a simple tune that was just perfect in reflecting the right mood. It could not have been bettered.

The drummer then introduced “Gokalina Song” a tune he composed for his daughter and which he said was based only on a three chord structure for the musicians. Maybe a basic format, but one that was really  charming with a whiff of nostalgia about it. The sax line by Greg Heath suited the reggae rhythm perfectly and engaged the audience with its gentle swing.

“Caravan” brought things back into the mainstream fold and gave Castelli another chance to show he was a master drummer, while “African Dance” was redolent of Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, full of rhythm and extended excitement.

As an encore, the band launched into Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be”, maybe things are not quite what they used to be, but it would be hard to fault an evening where you heard such a varied set of tunes that reflected jazz standards, Brazilian and Latin beats and New York Funk.

The following day this band are playing at the prestigious Marlborough Jazz Festival, on the evidence of this gig, they should be getting a great reception.

Friday 19th June 2015


Winning the Daily Telegraph “Young Jazz” competition a good while back was a good starter for ten, and it was great to see that Simon Allen had not lost any of his profound ability  in the intervening years, as he swept through a programme of jazz standards, ballads and Latin tunes with enthusiastic aplomb. As one of UKs top flight musicians, his playing on both alto and tenor saxophones was consistently assured, ebullient, and chock full of improvisations that were always articulate. Pairing Simon with ace trumpeter Steve Waterman was an ideal partnership and made for a cracking front line, with both musicians bouncing phrases off each other that made for exciting times. Although most of their programme were up tempo numbers, they both chose ballad features, firstly Steve’s reading of “I Fell In Love So Easily” captured the mood wonderfully that culminated in a long improvised coda that brought the tune to a perfect conclusion. In Simon’s case, he turned to Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”, with an interpretation that turned into a truly haunting performance.

Wayne Shorter’s “Yes and No”  proved a punchy number for the quintet with great solos all round, while Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy” heralded smart second line New Orleans style snare drumming from Dave Barry that carried the tune into a collectively swinging, grooving and soloing mode. Simply a” tour de force”. Added plusses was created by inspired interplay between trumpet and drums trading “fours” between them, before Simon Allen took over with similar interplay between the two musicians.

Victor Feldman’s “Seven Steps to Heaven” is a well known piece that has a tricky drum break as part of the opening theme, but Dave Barry showed he was the master of such situations and simply laid down a supporting rhythm that was spot on.. Steve Waterman confirmed to everyone that he is a great trumpet player and always plays with complete invention. Here he took off into the higher register playing clusters of notes and improvising around the theme with a wave of double time choruses. A class act.

Bronislau Kaper’s composition “Invitation” from the film of the same name, is a haunting tune, but taken a little faster this time out. Pianist Gareth Williams came into his own here and included a solo of great invention and character, something he contributed all evening.  At times Williams had touches of wit that made every tune enjoyable and easy on the ear. Other times he displayed quiet sensitivity that was forever an insight into the mind of the composer. Mick Hutton was most accomplished with all his bass work and underpinned the front line musicians quite superbly.

A spirited “All or Nothing at all” composed by Arthur Altman was the closing tune and gave the musicians  a final chance to shine, a performance that included more inspired playing from Waterman and Allen that sent everyone home happy and humming the tune!

Another great booking by Coljazz Promotions that was well supported and received by all.


Friday 15th May 2015

Anita Wardell/ Dave O’Higgins Quintet featuring:-    Anita Wardell vocals, Dave O’Higgins tenor sax, Mike Gorman piano, Tristan Mailliot drums and Flo Moore bass.

Here we had Anita Wardell demonstrating that without doubt, she is one of the most exciting and breathtaking singers on the jazz circuit today, whose captivating vocal improvisations and volacese lyrics demanded instant attention. Set to instrumental solos, she is musician who uses her voice as her instrument and by this means displays precision as well as agility in everything she sets out to do. Some fans will remember Jon Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross creating vocalese settings for their work that reached heights of popularity around the world in the 50s and 60s. So here we are in 2015 with Anita keeping the flame alive and recreating vocalese performances that still pack the same punch as in the past history of jazz voice.

Tenor saxophonist Dave O’Higgins energetic and sinuous reading of “All or nothing at all” was a delightful opener that combined boppish inventiveness with Coltrane influenced improvisations who gave way to Mike Gorman’s nimble piano work that exhibited affectionate awareness of the jazz tradition that reflected the two handed style of Oscar Peterson and even the catchiness of Thelonious Monk. Anita Wardell opened her set with “That’s All”, a tune covered by many jazz artists, but this performance was enlivened with her own twists and turns that made it just her own. Once more, the O’Higgins tenor sax was prominent in giving things just the right lift to make it great.

Drummer Tristan Maillot was in the forefront with excellent brush work behind Anita on the George Gershwin composition “Soon”, an up tempo tune that had swing written all over it. There were more good solos by both the tenor sax and piano before the drumming man showed that a solo with brushes was equally exciting as with his sticks. A tune composed by trombonist J.J. Johnson called “Lament” saw Anita Wardell and Mike Gorman begin this piece as a duet, with Gorman playing a lovely lyrical accompaniment to her voice, before the rhythm section came in as support to make the performance complete. This song is known to give out an expression of grief and regret, however this version was all about reading the music as a beautiful and touching composition, and it worked.

Vocalese and scat singing comes naturally when it comes to Charlie Parker tunes and Anita was in her element with his “Confirmation” and bebop standard “Scrapple from the Apple”. It might have been fast and furious, but the words were as clear as a bell and excitement was the by-word here.

Mention must be made of 22 year old bassist Flo Moore whose playing underpinned and provided a brilliant counterpoint to the soloists. She is one of those bass players you want to listen to very hard, as her contributions were always spot on. Now in her final year at the Royal College of Music, she has been studying under US bassist Michael janisch and clearly has all the attributes to go on to be one of the great British bass players

It was a joy to hear Anita Wardell singing in such an energetic and inventive manner and is clearly happy at being regarded of being a model of the singer’s art. She clearly relishes working with her fellow musicians and their show here was a top vocal and instrumental “coming together”.

Ten out of ten all round for everyone and to Coljazz Promotions for including this team in their current programme.

Finally, it was the sad duty of Colin Erswell to announce that Don Emanuel, our website manager and all round brilliant jazz supporter, had recently died and that all  gigs at the Anchorians  this year would be dedicated to him. He will be greatly missed by everyone.