Category: Latest Jazz News
England’s south coast offers an embarrassment of riches tonight for lovers of the jazz tradition; over in Shoreham, the South Coast Jazz Festival is presenting Pete Long and Claire Martin, in Hastings there’s a full house for the Greg Heath/James McMillan Quintet, and here in Brighton a packed, standing-room-only Verdict is the setting for legendary saxophonist and educator Dave Liebmans’ only appearance outside the capital. The event has been organised by the Brighton Jazz School, for whom Liebman has already delivered a two-hour workshop this afternoon, and director Wayne McConnell is on piano, co-leading with his opposite number from the Royal Academy of Music, trumpet maestro Nick Smart. ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’ eases us into the set; Liebman demonstrates his powerful tone on soprano and the band play beautifully, with some great interplay between McConnell and drummer Asaf Sirkis. Liebman sits mid-stage, eyes closed, directing the band with a nod or a wave, immersed in the music; his hunched, diminutive figure suggests an immense, hidden energy, coiled and ready to emerge. A brief spoken introduction and he’s off on an unaccompanied introduction to ‘Invitation’ that shows the breadth of his language.
He gives no quarter, and no count-ins, but tears into the tune; a torrent of bluesy slurs, high piercing vocalisings, harsh low-register declamations, thrilling angular lines, it’s all there, the original sound of the first post-Coltrane generation, the fire and passion undimmed by the years. Smart joins on trumpet for a stately rendition of ‘All Blues’ – Liebman acknowledges each well-shaped phrase with a regal wave of the hand. His solo turns the tune upside down with a tumult of ideas. McConnell’s reply is spacious, restrained, with an easy, light touch – the perfect palate cleanser.
Next up, Liebman drawls “OK, Cole Porter”, which can only mean one thing – an uptempo workout of the venerable ‘What is This Thing Called Love’. Smart tackles the tune on flugelhorn, gliding effortlessly over the speeding rhythm section and reaching up effortlessly into the high notes. Liebman follows with a complete deconstruction, using the old chestnut as a platform for a radical, coherent statement. A beautifully put together interlude by bassist Terry Pack brings the band back for a series of trades with Sirkis, who channels the spirit of Elvin Jones through his own powerful musical personality.
Energies are up for the second set; even in the ballad feature ‘In A Sentimental Mood’, Liebman follows McConnells’ poised, harmonically adventurous solo with an explosive coda. ‘Green Dolphin Street’ features Smarts’ clear tone and swinging phrasing, as Pack and Sirkis find the pocket and don’t let go. But the highlight is John Coltrane’s seldom-performed ‘India’. ‘He was ahead of his time, as those guys always are’ says Liebman. His opening on wooden flute, over sonorous arco bass and plucked piano strings, recreates the sound world of McCoy Tyner’s epic Milestone releases from the early 1970s. Smart cuts loose with a suitably virtuosic and celebratory trumpet solo; then the band drops away to leave Liebman and Sirkis in a tumultuous, uplifting duet worthy of the master. Pack comes back in, right on the money – it’s a great moment. The crowd won’t let them go, and they oblige with a rendition of ‘Footprints’. It’s over too soon, releasing a crowd of Beliebers into the night – a good night for the Brighton Jazz School, and for jazz in Brighton.
– Eddie Myer