I have already listed the Gareth Lockrane Big Band (above) at the 606 on lunchtime March 22nd in my previous post on this month about the 606.
But after a bit more thought and research, I am going to give it my very top recommendation on the constantly evolving LondonJazz recommendation scale. For the moment, for this occasion, this top recommendation is called : “Join my table?”This is a great band of hand-picked players.Lockrane emerged from the Royal Academy course about ten years ago alongside the likes of alto sax Sammy Mayne, and trumpeters Steve Fishwick and Henry Collins, and these long-standing associates are stalwarts of this band. Other key members of the personnel are amazing/lively piano/ keyboard/Hammond player Ross Stanley, and Mike Outram, who I often hear talked of in hushed tones, not only as the guitarists’ guitarist, but also as the musicians’ musican.
Lockrane’s big band has evolved out of his other projects, notably Grooveyard, which has won a European Best Small band prize, and is described by guitarist Jim Mullen in a record review as “a group of young veterans of British jazz […]a hard-swinging band who know how to get low-down and funky when required.”
All the charts for the big band are Lockrane’s own – we’re talking about a man with an unbelievable work-rate here! . He talks rapidly – but in a tone of gratitude, and with what he calls “obsession” about all the influences on his writing: “it’s the vibe of Eddie Harris (albums like Swiss Movement) , of Oliver Nelson (Blues and the Abstract Truth) , Jim McNeely and the Thad/Jones-Mel Lewis orchestra….But then there’s also Mingus…and Basie.” Lockrane has absorbed, internalized , updated all this…but what you hear is his, original.
Thanks to far-sighted promoter Paul Pace, Lockrane’s septet had an outing at the Spice of Life in the London Jazz Festival in 2006 (check out a YOUTUBE clip of the teack “Roots”) and the big band had its very first and very successful appearance at the 2008 festival. This is its second time on the road.
What makes Lockrane special? One fellow musician who has worked a lt with him says: “The amazing thing about Gareth is that for someone of his talent, and who gets so much done, he is absiolutely never intimidating, he is faultlessly enthusiastic, encouraging and generous.”
I can personally vouch for that. I used to have an extreme sport which was turning up as the featured tenor sax, blowing a soft chorus or two at singers’ open mic nights. Which was where I first came across Lockrane, on piano. I don’t think I know of a more encouraging presence on a bandstand in London.
I’m really looking forward to this gig, and, yes, there really are seats at my table.
UPDATE: Lockrane’s Grooveyard, recorded live earlier this year, is on Alex Bonney’s EXCELLENT Earconnector site