Wednesday 11 February 2015

Kelvin Christiane Big Band - The Cabbage Patch

Ian Smith - trumpet
We were pressed in tighter than a sardine sandwich last week (02/02/2015) at the Cabbage Patch Pub to launch the first Big Band night at Twickenham Jazz Club's new home. Not only was it rammed full of keen audience members but a 16 strong Big Band to boot.

Bob McKay -
With its warm and welcoming ambience I think the word 'cosy' might be an understatement to describe this night but don't think this was pipe and slippers fare in the Patchworks bar. The heat comes from those manly perspiring musos and the red hot tunes fired relentlessly into eager jazz lovers.

Noel Joyce - drums
If you have never been before, then a Big Band night comes with a heavy recommendation, if not for the music then for the interaction and dynamism of the band. Four banks of musicians line up before you. Piano, bass and drums are relegated to the back, carolled behind the standing trumpeters who teeter above them. In front of the trumpets sat four trombones and the those in the vanguard were the saxophones.

Chris Lowe - Trombone
Benny Golson's 'Whisper Not' was certainly an understatement as the front row of the audience felt the full blast of the saxophones, who sat just inches away. The equally apt 'Nutville' (Horace Silver) was next and if you hadn't already guessed it there is a dark and infectious humour that rolls around a Big Band. Kelvin Christiane's band is no exception, and where there is humour they'll be a few headcases too. Against the grain was Chris Lowe who is composure and elegance personified. His trombone solo was as neat and debonair as his attire.

Nick Mills - Trombone
It was the Christiane penned 'Spring Lullaby' next, if you were expecting to be rocked asleep then hold onto your gunnels because night time in Kelvin Christiane's mind is both dark and turbulent. Nick Mills (trombone), Pete Hurt (sax) and KC himself all featured. Despite the tune appearing on Christiane's Parisian Summer album this feels and smells strongly of mid-century USA. The Continental Op chewing gum, a long night, perhaps a killer in the shadows but most certainly there's a deliberate and powerful punch to conclude this pulp fiction yarn.

Damian Cook -
Damian Cook (soprano saxophone) and Pete Hurt (flute) featured proudly on the Stevie Wonder tune 'You've got it bad girl' before we indulged ourselves in another Twickenham Jazz Club favourite, 'Joy Spring'. It was here that I spied one of a series of new faces to me. Pianist Jim Treweek started this Clifford Brown tune with fluidity and dexterity, one might even say playful.

Jim Treweek - piano
Jim Treweek shone again on 'Toothless Grin' (John LaBarbera), his pearly whites radiated from the rear of the Cabbage Patch stage. This was an on-your-toes performance, started by Bob McKay on flute, which then pulsed into a rolling mass, happily careering under its own momentum. The Kelvin Christiane Big Band were a carnival float cascading down a San Francisco descent, and we were more than happy to hitch a lift.

Jonathan Lewis - Trumpet
The second set was opened by hostess Lesley Christiane with Gershwin's ''S Wonderful' and Bart Horward's 'Fly me to the moon'. It was a time to sit back and take in the full impact of the Big Band that rose up behind Madame Christiane. Ian Smith with his 'Milk Tray Man' turtleneck and Charles Dance visage caught the discerning eye.

Stuart Brooks - Trumpet
It is often the trumpeters who end up in my sketchbook, two with contrasting styles are Stuart Brooks whose trumpet projects out to the audience at right angles to the stage, while Jonathan Lewis' has a severe case of Brewers Droop. Do not doubt his virility though, he has enough punch in that trumpet to take you to heaven and back. Matt Yardley amply completed the quartet with equal force and power.

Richard Sadler
The penultimate tune of the night was Buddy Rich's Groovin' Hard, it strutted and skipped straight into it's stride like a Man-about-town. It was dapper. It had a purpose, a mission, a raison d'etre even, but lets not sound too pretentious. The man about Twickenham is of course local bassist Richard Sadler, who has, with one slice of his razor relinquished his Lord Lucan looks in favour of a clean cut approach.

Martin Nickless
Sax & Clarinet
It is a failing of mine to be too light hearted with the talents of these accomplished musicians but sometimes they add the grist to the mill themselves. Tonight though the Kelvin Christiane's Big Band were the essence of focussed zeal, Brotherhood and togetherness. There was not a breath of hot air in their final tune "Wind Machine". It was as punchy as anything rumbling off the Siberian steppes. Which prepared everyone nicely for their walk home.

Chris Gower - Trombone

Dave Eaglestone - Trombone

Matt Yardley - trumpet

Pete Hurt - flute & sax

Stuart Green
Cabbage Patch landlord
and sound engineer.

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