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Review: Gareth Lockrane Big Band/ 606 Club


Gareth Lockrane
The endings of Gareth Lockrane’s big band charts often build into moments of total fulfilment and completeness. It’s something you have to hear, and much harder to put it into words . In “Mel’s Spells“, dedicated to Mel Lewis, and “Plan B” the band crescendos progressively to a blooming full-on sound, with buckets of harmonic information. It is just very, very satisfying. The hand gestures which Lockrane uses to summon up this wonderful sound from his big band of specially selected players might sound prosaic: his outstretched right hand becomes a fist. His final emphatic gesture is what a gym rat would call a bicep pulldown. But the result he gets from these simple gestures is unforgettable. And yes, it needs absolutely to be heard.

This gig, just the second appearance of Lockrane’s big band, lived up to all my expectations. Lockrane is known as a jazz flautist, the finest in Britain, maybe the finest anywhere. His own fluent and melodic soloing over the band on flute, piccolo, alto flute and towel rail (or bass flute) would win over any people who are inclined to doubt whether this family of instruments can prosper in jazz.

But his compositions for big band are totally convincing too. He has written charts for particular players whose sound and personality he has completely absorbed, typically from long collaboration. Some are his contemporaries, players in their early thirties, but there is nearly a thirty year age range from the youngest to the oldest members of the band.

There is rich material in the band parts for the soloists to work and to dialogue with: stab chords in the opening number “Lock-up”, a swelling,rising-scale bass hook from Simon Thorpe in “Dennis Irwin,”. Key band members also provide rich colour and great support. Ross Stanley on piano and gnarling Hammond synth, and Mike Outram, a poet of the guitar stood out individually, and combined together superbly.

A highlight for me was “I remember the X-Men” a shuffle written as a feature for Sammy Mayne on alto. Mayne’s soloing had generosity, breadth and air. There was a remarkable, idiomatic interlude for just flute and the four trombones, and a joyous coda for the trumpet section playing a tricky melody in perfect unison. Another moment to treasure was the sudden , magical transition in the closing section of “We will never meet again” into double-time feel with Harmon-muted trumpets and dark and sonorous bass clarinet from Bob McKay.

This band also featured fine charts by long-time Lockrane associates Henry Collins and Robbie Robson from the trumpet section, and “One Way” by trombonist Trevor Myers, which closed with demonstration quality duetting from Lockrane on flute and Myers on bass trumpet.

After just one gig, I know that I have not heard anything like enough of this outfit, and will definitely want to hear them again, and as soon as possible. This superb band also deserves to catch the ears of a sympathetic BBC producer or of a record label.

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