Friday 20 September 2013

Vasilis Xenopoulos & the Nigel Price Organ Trio

Vasilis Xenopoulos - Saxophone
You've got to hear this guy, they said.
He'll be worth it!

My muddied thoughts screamed STOP! The desire to knock him down after he had been built so high would be irresistible. Vasilis Xenopoulus' Jenga style rise had been remarkably solid in my mind as not only jazz fans but musicians too placed effusive bricks atop one another in a Empire State style ascension.

Nigel Price fan -
Peter Wild
Yesterday (19/09/2013) at Twickenham Jazz Club was the time for the uninitiated to choose whether to add another brick to his reputation or swing the wrecking ball in defiant mood. The club was completely packed, the crowd in generous mood despite the awkward suburban yoga when knee touches knee of complete strangers. Many had come through devotion to the leader of tonight's quartet, Nigel Price. I recognised the dashing Peter Wild, whose handsome Milk Tray Man profile stood out in the throng. All the ladies love chocolates it seems and Nigel Price, who has become the most popular performer since the Club re-launched 9 months ago.

Nigel Price
Despite his regular visits, Price keeps us on our toes, with a changing repertoire and new combinations of facial hair each time. This was a chance to hear his own work, a rich slice from his most recent recording Heads & Tails and some older still. Surprisingly nervous in speech, dexterous in motion on guitar and as always unassuming in demeanour he spent the evening bathed in blue shadows.

Paul Hutchings
Price, resplendent with new moustache
/goatee, sat astride his saloon chair like a diminutive cowboy or perhaps a wild west prospector, and he seemed to strike gold regularly. He excelled on 'All In' and drew the biggest roar for '4 on 6' which brought a hypnotic beat to our collective pulses, coursing the blood, and eventually stinging the hands in applause. His final tune of the night 'Go', recently penned, was a fine illustration of his clarity.

Matt Home - drums
The hot topic of debate on my pew was between Twickenham Jazz Club stalwarts Max Macson and Paul Hutchings who were discussing Matt Home's rimshots. Assuming this was an affliction which plagued drummers whose job requires them to permanently sit down only exposed my ignorance once again. Hutchings, an 'oily ragged' engineer and aficionado Macson put me right, giving me an analysis and dissection of rimshots on Brubeck 'Take Five'. Home was fluid throughout and his rimshots precisely hit their mark, the aforementioned '4 on 6' ringing true.

Peter Whittaker
'Stealing Time' was a favourite of the evening and none shone brighter than Peter Whittaker on organ. On the face of it an unlikely marriage, because the tune is a bossa nova based upon Kurt Weill's 'Speak Low' played by Whittaker who looks very much the stoic, sporting a side parting straighter than Gareth Bale. Whittaker flung off a perceived British reserve with his pumping carousel of notes that catapulted us into a bevvy of throbbing carnival beauties.

Kelvin Christiane -
There was an audible sigh of disappointment when Kelvin Christiane came to the stand. Not because of the man himself but because he had left his baritone sax at home. His tenor duel on 'Voyage' dispelled the dark clouds, where Christiane was deep and intense. The saxophone's path wasn't always straightforward, but challenging compositions brought out the best in Vasilis Xenopoulos in particular. He blew his cheeks out in anticipation before attempting the frantic 'Its not alright with me',

Xenopoulus is a compact and powerful player, demonstrating a rapid peppering style during the 2 sets and especially on 'Stealing Time' where he was particularly uncomplicated, yet penetrating. He lived up to my expectations and I believe those of the audience too. Students of the genre developed creeping smiles that were hard to shake off like the man sitting opposite me. Ted, a sax player for 10 years, a student of Kelvin Christiane's for 3 of those, who turned to me after a Xenopoulos solo and said to me, "Learning to play the sax is hard work you know."
....and all I could think was, where would you start?
Even though the sensible answer would be to construct your knowledge and skill block by block, in all honesty I know my tower would have collapsed around my ankles long ago.

All credit to the talents that keep building theirs to the sky and beyond.


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