Monday 8 September 2014

Will Butterworth Quartet at Blind Bee Jazz

Nick Pini - Bass
It was a descent into London's subterranean vaults to realise that Will Butterworth and his quartet need more air to breathe and more people to hear their story. It was a first visit (04/09/2014) to a new night at the exclusive Eight Members Club, near Bank station and in the dark heart of the city.

The night, Jazz at the Blind Bee, is currently being established by Middle East music specialist Shirley Smart. The inaugural gig in August was reserved for the talents of Alex Hutton and he was followed by Will Butterworth, a new visitor to the Art of Jazz sketchbook. All the nights start at 8pm, but you'll have to be on the list to get in! Negotiating stubborn bouncers will not be a problem just email or join the next gig at

You would imagine, a descent into the city's heart of darkness would be as disorientating as Joseph Conrad's novel itself and you would be right. Several flights of stairs flush you out into a plush interior that is less Congo than opulent urban cool. Jazz it seems would be a perfect bedfellow for this world but it will need Shirley Smart and a few more gigs to make sure that Jazz at Blind Bee doesn't die horribly like Kurtz himself. It will need the jazz crowd to match the city workers in numbers and make them take notice.

Marco Quarantotto - drums
This was not a night for authors to set their scenes with lengthy prologues despite Will Butterworth's current muse being Oscar Wilde. It was the time to grasp the fleeting moment, to capture the ephemeral in your mind before the thudding bass of nearby establishments drove Butterworth's music from your heart.

The first tune 'Cage' gave me a mere glance at the assembled musicians, Seb Pipe immediately drawing the attention on alto saxophone. It was the second, 'The Nightingale', that let the pencil and mind roam with freedom. Nick Pini (Bass) was both dark in timbre as well as in light and I could just see his silhouette and few wisps of ruddy hair in the gloom. The opening third was slow and easy, pedestrian, not in insult but in appreciation. It made you want to strut with latent power rather than frivolity. With the kind of walk that makes people take notice, whether you prowl a New York Avenue or Bromley High Street.

Will Butterwoth - piano
The middle third of 'The Nightingale' danced with the rapidity of ideas. This was a conversation, one in tone and pace that was quicker than the brain can compute. An enigma machine would have been needed to dissect it's full meanings. There was beauty too, especially when Will Butterworth (piano) was all alone. He was a pensive runaway and there was joy in his escape and flight.

The final third gave us notes to question, a mystery, a conundrum. The mullet and brush, one held in either hand of Marco Quarantotto set the theme. There was a choking swirl from Seb Pipe's saxophone lifting us out of the depths of London. We rose into an in-between world, one very much like the city after the Footsie has shut down for night.

Seb Pipe - saxophone
'Lizard Blues' gave us a quick palate cleanser. The Rhythm section of Pini and Quarantotto were the belt that keep the rolling sax of Pipe from flopping over it's waistband. It was as though he was gorging himself on an abundance of fingers foods, quick bites that slid down our throats without even a hint of a chew.


Jazz night's at the Blind Bee is worth supporting and exploring more, coming up is Maurizio Minardi  (Sept 18th) and Al Scott (Oct 2nd). Don't forget it's Free Entry.

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