Scarborough Jazz


Anita Wardell with Dave O'Higgins Quartet (The Loire Allstars: 14th May 2014)

Anita WardellDave O’Higgins (ts), Anita Wardell (vs), Dave Gorman (p), Oli Hayhurst (b) and Tristan Maillot (d) have for some years been co-tutors at a summer-school in France, and at the suggestion of Maillot, they came together to record last year, from which, in turn, sprang the idea of touring. 

Beginning their tour at Scarborough, and having not played together for some months, it came as no surprise that there was the odd minor hiccup with the intros and outros, but what was lost in organisational perfection was more than compensated for by the freshness of the arrangements, and by the pleasure that the band obviously got from working together.

(For those not in the know) these guys all have international reputations, and, predictably, they played beautifully, mainly sticking to the material on their CD, a varied selection of melodic standards (ranging from the contemporary Latin pop-jazz fusion of Djavan’s “Flor de Lis” to the highly un-contemporary pop-jazz of Cole Porter’s “I Love You, to the more overtly modernistic “Throw it Away” [Abbey Lincoln], “Blue Monk” [Thelonious Monk] and “Jinrikisha” [Joe Henderson]), though all were interpreted in mainstream modern jazz mode. 

Wardell sang with immaculate timing and with feeling, and whether scat singing solo, scat dueting with O’Higgins sax, or singing ‘normally’, amply utilised the instrumental qualities of her voice, and O’Higgins, a front-line star in his own right, played with a clean sound and used dissonance with skill, restraint and taste, and demonstrated an unusual ability to build solos into group improvisations without disrupting the flow; and in tandem with Gorman he seemed to adjust intuitively to the potential of creating a chamber ambience in the environment of the Cask basement; and that was nice, somehow. 

Gorman himself played with taste and restraint, and I particularly enjoyed his Monk-ish solo during “Blue Monk”, and his role in the piano/scat/sax/piano soloing through Johnny Mercer’s “My Shining Hour”, which took place over a backdrop of intricately busy bass and drums, with Hayhurst’s walking bass reaching a dazzling speed.  Indeed, this ability to maintain a rapid pace of bass note-playing was consistently well harnessed, because Hayhurst thereby managed to engineer a smooth fluidity into his reaction with Maillot which propelled the music with tremendous energy, an energy highlighted by Maillot’s never-hesitating busyness and imaginative use of texture (rim-shots, subdued or suggested bombs, and so on).

Overall this was a wonderfully entertaining evening, and it would be hard to improve on MC Bob W’s closing remarks: "it was a pleasure to enjoy the company of these people."

Diane Watson

Posted on 23 May 2014 by admin
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