Friday, 13 September 2013

The dark side of Kelvin Christiane

Kelvin Christiane - Saxophone
Why would an artist choose to sit in front of 16 burly musicians and attempt to capture them all on paper in just two hours. Some might say I was destined to fail last Tuesday (10/09/2013) and they were right. It was the opening of Twickenham Jazz Club's Autumn/Winter season and the 16 specimens of manhood that presented themselves for roll call did so under the gaze of sergeant major Kelvin Christiane. Of course what brought me to attempt such a challenge of immortalising all these loyal jazz soldiers was the feel good factor of the Big Band.

Graham Russell - Trumpet
When faced with such a united front the best plan is to pick off a few well known faces and get them into your sketchbook. Although they looked sternly at me like Mussolini's Squadristi in their Blackshirts I knew that there were a few jokers in the pack. Chief among them being the irrepressible Graham Russell, who gently wafted his quips through the trumpet line like a naughty pupil with a stash of stink bombs.

Richard Sadler - Bass
Just behind Russell was bassist Richard Sadler, another stalwart of Christiane's ensembles, deep in thought, eyes barely rising above the trumpet trenches above him. Nowadays he sports a look somewhere between a young Lord Kitchener and the Village People's biker. I have to say he plays bass vastly better than both.

Graeme Taylor - Keys
The rearguard of Big Bands are often neglected so it was a pleasure to outflank them and spy a jocular Graeme Taylor on keys. He must be a good stick, for here is a man who is a leader in his own right. On this night demoted to water carrier for the saxophones at the front but usually he is the General of the Hot Waffle Big Band, a scorching funk ensemble, terrorising the Watford area.

Noel Joyce - Drums
To complete the back line was Noel Joyce. Hot from recording the latest Kelvin Christiane Album, The Arrival, along with Nigel Price and Larry Bartley. It is a CD of two halves, with the tunes split between Christiane's flute and baritone saxophone. I had been happily pressed-ganged into action for the artwork. You'll be able to buy it very soon from his website. LINK HERE

Jonathan Lewis - Trumpet
Although we started with Sammy Nestico's sweeping 'Switch in Time', it was a mere warm up for an excellent Christiane tune 'Spring Lullaby' from his Parisian Summer album. Jonathan Lewis (trumpet) was especially evocative by extracting the darkest themes from what is a particularly menacing lullaby. One eye swivelled toward us while the other shut, unnerving us even more. Max Macson, who recently appeared in Danny Boyle's 'Trance' and knows a thing or two about film scores, lent over and commented on its brooding nature, "Just like Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story".

Paul Jordanous - Trumpet
We were of course treated to Big Band staples that roused our cockles, none played better than by the late arriving Mr Paul Jordanous. The man is so busy, he may have well just hopped off a plane from the continent where he is in demand. It was back in London where I've heard the most glowing report of his skills at an Association of British Calypsonians concert recently from Rich Rainlore who just said "Spectacular". He lived up to expectations on Benny Golson's 'Whisper Not'.

Damian Cook - Alto Sax
'Thumbs' gave me a first glimpse of alto saxophonist Damian Cook. The lighting at the Bloomsbury can be problematic for the big band, after all it would be hard to train 16 spotlights on the performers. So Cook was deep in shadow and this cast a deep and thoughtful shadow on his demeanour. He may well be the most delicate of flowers but here he looked as though he had walked straight out of a Scandinavian murder drama, resplendent with an Arctic Circle beard.

Nick Mills - Trombone
Then came another Christiane composition, 'Thrills'. Strange in that it juxtaposed itself against all the togetherness of previous swinging tunes. Appealing because of its moments of discord and mature after the lightness of the tune preceding it, 'Joy Spring'.
Nick Mills solo epitomised the sentiment, slowly working toward unison then breaking the underlying themes apart. Thrills it was, as Mills became redder and redder as he took centre stage and we all wondered if he was going to blow the inner gasket in his impressive chest.

Chris Lowe - Trombone
'Groove Merchant' proved the perfect foil for Chris Lowe on trombone. Usually he wields his trombone as though he were a dueller seeking satisfaction from a rival suitor, but here was a more earthy and rich solo. Distinguished of course, but with Stuart Brooks they were like two gutsy Flappers dancing on the their big band table. Brazen and stylish.

Lesley Christiane
Lesley Christiane catapulted our post break blues away and despite being a little down hearted at the start of the evening, brought us her razzmatazz in the form of 'Taking a chance on love' and 'Orange coloured sky'. Once again she proved she is the doyenne of The Bloomsbury's Jazz scene.

Dave Eaglestone - Trombone
Before signing off let me mention the double barrels of Dave Eaglestone on trombone and Duncan Lamont Junior on Baritone saxophone.
Eaglestone rarely takes his turn in the limelight yet is undoubtedly the 'engine' of the band. Lamont was smooth, if that isn't an insult nowadays, on 'Superbone meets the bad man'.

Pete Hurt - Tenor Saxophone
Finally, Pete Hurt gave us his arrangement of 'Star Eyes'. Hurt is the epitome of substance over style, his playing style reminds one of the way Geoffrey Boycott converses, out of the side of the mouth and with a no nonsense approach.

It was great to be back in the company of the Twickenham Jazz Club crowd, warm in its embrace as the Autumnal nights draw in. The dark tinged lullaby of Kelvin Christiane's self-penned tunes brought us the thrill of September with its steamy breath and sweet orange decay. The Big Band's music though defies this yearly disintegration, capturing the audience in its fairytale spell, and bestowing upon us the ability to reverse the ageing process. If I keep going to their monthly nights I'm hoping I will be rejuvenated in the time for the Christmas party season.


Stuart Brooks - Trumpet
Chris Gower - Trombone

Duncan Lamont Junior -
Baritone Saxophone


  1. Just loaded a link to Alban's latest blog on the Twickenham Jazz Club website and, although I couldn't make the gig last Tuesday, Alban's excellent descriptive writing almost makes up for the fact that I, clearly, missed another great evening of first class jazz...more power to your pen my friend! Hope to see you on Thursday for Nigel and Vasilis.

    1. Cheers L,
      Kelvin's own tunes really stood out from the crowd.
      Nice to catch some new faces and to see some jazz royalty in the form of Mr Duncan Lamont Jnr. Thursday in the diary.