Friday 18 October 2013

Ollie Howell Quintet - Whirlwind debut

Ollie Howell - drums
 True to the spirit of London Jazz's most exciting label Ollie Howell launched both the Whirlwind Festival and his own debut CD at King's Place last week (10/10/2013). This is a thrilling time to be amongst the metropolis' bubbling jazz fraternity and find oneself in the company of a label that is synonymous with creativity and Jazz's forward propulsion.

Ollie Howell's journey to this point made it a poignant night even in the modest surroundings of the St Pancras Room. He was diagnosed with a brain malformation in 2009 and since then has undergone surgery and long periods of recuperation. To his credit this hasn't dampened his composition skills nor his spirit and both the CD itself and the night's raw promise lived up to the label's highest standards.

Sebastian Scotney
Introducing Howell and the whole festival was aficionado and King's Place denizen Sebastian Scotney. Every gig was succinctly flavoured with his knowledge of London's burgeoning scene and his warmth for the music and performers alike. After his opening gambits he would sit down and contemplate the music. A reflective listener, with head bowed in anticipation he rubs his nails together as though he is about to light his tinder. With the St Pancras' round window silhouetting his profile, he looked like a Bond villain that is contemplating world domination rather than a mere CD launch.

Matt Robinson - piano
With his back to the audience it would be easy to dismiss the role of pianist Matt Robinson even before starting this short hour set. Yet it was this shy wit that shone in the early skirmishes, a pumping, driving gallop in the opening tune 'Later On' was reinforced in the wild up tempo 'A World Apart' where he cast off his reins and roamed free.

Mark Perry - trumpet
The third tune 'They' was dedicated to Ollie Howell's family who proudly occupied a healthy portion of the crowd. Although Howell isn't prone to emotional outpourings here was an opportunity for him to plough the depths of his affections. His searching start rattled into a loose solo, slowly he took control with just his digits, as if blind to his surroundings his fingertips led us onto more gentle ground. This softness was only supported by both Mark Perry (trumpet) and Duncan Eagles (saxophone) as the tune developed. It was a pleasure to meet some of the Howell Clan afterwards and the festival layout encouraged everyone to draw together, creating the opportunity to see familiar faces and make foster new friendships.

Duncan Eagles - Saxophone
The front line of the OHQ was led by the lithe Perry and Eagles. On the pulse of recent trends in the 1980's fashion revival the former dazzled younger devotees with his slick suit that was reminiscent of the decades' icons Crockett and Tubbs. Unfortunately we saw no more of Mark Perry during the rest of the festival, for he always adds a spark to proceedings with his attire and playing.

Max Luthert - Bass
Duncan Eagles was on good form, terrorising the audience on 'Beyond', where his legendary left shoulder reached its peak. Both Perry and Eagles are competent musicians with a recent release as leaders to be launched on the 17th November at the London Jazz Festival (Pizza Express, Soho) and they coped well with the expectation placed on them as the Festival's opening act. Their only moment of discomfort, a clapping sequence at the end of 'Beyond' when both looked at each other but couldn't decide whether to take it to a full boyband dance routine. Max Luthert on bass didn't let them down though and his left leg couldn't resist wobbling in Shakin Stevens stylie.

Ollie Howell's debut recording 'Sutures and Stitches' has already received a bucket full of good reviews. His music has also attracted the attention of both Jimmy Cobb and Quincy Jones and you can see why. The penultimate tune 'Dear Old Stockholm' gave Howell the freedom to express his talents through his playing rather than composition and he was mesmeric with his fluid changes in pace. Howell has a serenity around him, his long face emits a wisdom that must have been gained through some of life's toughest lessons. Whirlwind's Michael Janisch trusted him enough to launch the festival and he didn't disappoint.


He's currently on tour with a whole range of dates countrywide to take your choice from.
Including tonight in Bristol (18th October) and Sunday (20th Oct) at the excellent Southampton Modern Jazz Club.

1 comment:

  1. A great combination of artwork and witty prose - super report as always :)