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Review: ‘Bone Supremacy

Trombonists naturally reach out to audiences
Review: ‘Bone Supremacy: Chicken Shed, Friday March 6th
I had been looking forward to this gig, ‘Bone Supremacy’s first outing. It didn’t disappoint, either as music, or indeed as entertainment
After a full year’s worth of thought and preparation, the band’s co-leaders Adrian Fry and Ian Bateman could finally have some fun tonight as they looked back. They dragged up some of the more idiotic names which they had rejected for the band-‘Bone Jovi and Sludge Pump were two of their luckier escapes. Tonight they were free to make light all of the planning, the transcribing (Bateman), the arranging (Fry) , and of all their doubts along the way.
Because, aided by the adrenaline of the occasion, by some great arrangements, by the Chicken Shed’s very good sound system, and by an audience definitely out to enjoy itself (rather than watch Comic Relief…), ‘Bone Supremacy delivered superb results throughout.
The band consists of the trombone section of the Back to Basie Orchestra – Andy Flaxman on lead trombone, Ian Bateman, Adrian Fry and Chris Gower on bass trombone, plus an invited guest, tonight Mark Bassey. Plus a very strong rhythm section: the unique Dankworth staffer John Horler on piano, the sonorous Jerome Davis on bass, and the flawless Pete Cater at the drum kit.
But surely, this combination all evening, it might have its limitations? Not a bit. Don’t underestimate the range of colours and moods which these players could conjure up, and the finesse and subtlety and range of writing in the charts. Also, the band’s musical personalities are well matched. Bateman produces a commanding sound- notably on Ken Woodman’s chart “The Bone Idle Rich” ; Flaxman is far gentler, but he executed the high-lying parts of arrangements like “Violets” and “Blanket of Blues” with awe-inspiring grace; Fry is as fluent and fluid as a soloist as he is canny as an arranger; Bassey has an irrepressible character, and infectious sense of humour, and an astonishing agility around the instrument; and whenever Gower on bass trombone received the nod to express his point of view, he spoke it low and loud and clear .
You also get a good sense with this band of infectious team spirit, of guys well-organised in a common purpose, and completely on top of their game. Bassey’s arrangement of “In the beginning” had the trombonists imitating “primordial slugs” at the beginning of the chart, and then all five outstretching arms, as one, for their unison sixth position bottom F naturals at the end. (There were quite a few trombonists in the audience last night, so it was easy for me to find snippets of completely useless information like this!)
This is a great unit. How rare it must be that effort plus talent can produce a band which is 100% gig-ready at its first gig, and also laughs and entertains.
‘Bone Supremacy deserves, and is ready for BBC Radio Two or Jazz Line-Up plus a few festivals. Because this is not just a labour of love by top professionals, but also a labour of great fun.

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