Monday 21 April 2014

Purity not Parody - Nick Mills' Blue Note Project

Nick Mills - Trombone
The fur-cheeked trombonist Nick Mills brought his Blue Note Project to Twickenham Jazz Club earlier this month (10/04/2014) in a display of love and devotion to the long established record label. This was not a history lesson but a celebration of classic compositions by six intelligent performers.

Brandon Allen -
Tenor Saxophone
First impressions do not suggest that Nick Mills is a paid up member of the Jazz intelligentsia but as you hear him speak about his chosen subject you realise that still waters run deep. With his round face, furry chops and a face that turns a subtle shade of puce when in the groove I always imagine he sprung from the Jackanory episode when the BFG meets The lion who came to tea.

Jeremy Brown - Bass

Early exchanges were in honour of Wayne Shorter whose "Hammer head" and "Children of the night" could have been dedicated to saxophonist Brandon Allen who has recently became a father of an infant young enough to disrupt a few nights sleep. There is always a little knee bend in his expressive playing and his solo during the latter tune included a series of rhythmic small steps as though he were a toddler having a tantrum. This was grown-up performance though by Allen and he excelled on the subsequent Lee Morgan tune "Calling Miss Khadija".

Leon Greening -
Behind band leader Mills I caught brief glimpses of bassist Jeremy Brown who looked every inch the corduroyed  professor complete with spectacles and wild hair. Leon Greening also lurked in the shadows, and visually he was even more incognito under his 'Cousin Itt' bouffant. Not for long, the Twickenham Jazz Club crowd were not going to let him lurk at the back of the stage and he received the strongest response from these wise men and women. In fact Greening was central to the overall performance, his musical motifs during another Shorter tune "Ping Pong" was as light and esssential as the air in a table tennis ball.

A murmuration from the audience greeted Henry Armburg-Jennings on "Skylark" but it was the lines of attack opened up by drummer Matt Home that continued to impress especially on Curtis Fuller "Buhaina's delight" where his direct playing rolled down from dexterous clenched paws to a driving twisting left leg. I raise this Low's hat to his high-hat in admiration.

Henry Armburg-Jennings
Flugel and trumpet
Matt Home wasn't the only player with attack and drive on the Fuller tune. Nick Mills was territorial on his fellow trombonist's composition and roamed the stage with lager in hand like a man eager to once again engage in combat.

Matt Home - Drums
The familiarity of "Caravan" as their final tune could have signalled this as a pastiche of past glories, but in the hands of the Nick Mill's Blue Note Project  it had a sinister and discordant edge that made one feel alive like a kick in the vein. It was frantic and leftfield. It reflected a time when drug addiction was synonymous with moments of creation and originality but in this case it proved that this was not a night for parody but for purity.



  1. What a brilliant write up Alban..with The Blue note project coming to Twickenham Jazz Club again on Tuesday 8th December..I will be stealing a few of your illustrious quotes to tempt everyone to come and bask in the brilliance of this amazing band....

    1. Thank you Lesley, I would never of had the chance to see and hear them if it wasn't for your generosity and indefatigable spirit.