Friday 29 November 2013

Leo Appleyard - Stepping out

Leo Appleyard - Guitar
It was a nervous debut for Leo Appleyard at the Pizza Express on the first Sunday (16/11/2013) of the EFG London Jazz Festival. Although well known in the tight Birmingham jazz circuit and in quarters of South-West London he is a fresh face on the block.

Before a sold out Soho crowd the angelic guitarist wound up the spring of his quintet's (+ Special guest Neil Yates) ample talents. In turn they played tighter and tighter until finally they were let loose as the concert struck it's concluding chimes. The opener, "The Homeless Wizard" found the musicians a little errant and they felt their way into the dark ambience of the venue and the grandeur of the festival.

Neil Yates - Trumpet and Flugelhorn
Although Neil Yates came to the stage for the second tune it took a few minutes to dispel some of the creases from his dishevelled suit and playing. "The Cleaver" announced the real arrival of the band. Neil Yates screwed up his face like the twirled end of a toffee and this summed up the performance. He stuck in there, despite not being at his most fluent, we chewed on him until we got our sweet stuff.

Duncan Eagles -
Although "The Cleaver" is a swinger, as the name suggests it is not a happy sway that rocks this tune, but it was the chance for both Eric Ford on drums to add his North African lilt and Max Luthert on bass to cut in with his superb throbbing presence.

Max Luthert - Bass
In demeanour and as a band leader Leo Appleyard doesn't dominate, preferring to extract unexpected performances from the men around him. "Mantra" slowly unravelled Duncan Eagles on saxophone, jettisoning his usual porcupine delivery, he wafted up to us like a soothing cloud of lyrical steam that cleared our sinuses and we breathed deep in this young tenor's talent.

Eric Ford - Drums
The slow drip of Max Luthert developed into a gentle cascade but never reached a roaring torrent on "Pembroke Road". Luthert, like Eagles before him, showed his advancing maturity in his field by playing with restraint, it was noticeable too that Neil Yates' chin was elevating that bit more, less scrunched and more proud. We got the full effect of his talents and the group fulfilled their prowess on the final tune "Anywhere South" which gave us an upbeat and accomplished send off.

This was a gig that took some time to reach its full stride but I think we can safely assume that today's small steps will lead to a giant leap for Leo Appleyard in the future.


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