I had found the CD addictive. It has received a lot of attention and got some deservedly very good reviews. (It is also available on LIMITED EDITON VINYL, I hear good reports of that too!)
But, as ever, the live experience proved more complete. Not only because it delivered to the listener/viewer a good sense of how the interplay of Noble’s and Clarvis’ contrasting personalities works. But above all because the live experience brought out the particular humour and laughter which a musical friendship at this level of attainment can bring.
The contrast was there from the moment the two took the stand. Clarvis talked about the opening number: Ellington’s Mood Indigo. But it wasn’t just talk. He also sang the monotone third trumpet part to Mood Indigo, which he remembered note-for-note from his days as a youngster in the Silver Street, Enfield, Boys Brigade band. And he didn’t just sing. He also fixed his now regular collaborator, trumpet great Henry Lowther, with a smile as he did so. It was a poignant moment, revealing the journey travelled. “That’s why I gave up the trumpet,” said Clarvis, the smile still fixed on Lowther.
And then the music started. A slow number like this finds Noble completely absorbed in his phenomenal craft. He doesn’t always go for eye contact on the stand. But he has a unique way of completely inhabiting a tune, of communicating from deep inside it, of re-inventing its twists and turns from within it. This opening number found him at his most thoughtful and Bill Evansish, while Clarvis’ fluid and creative brushwork had every bit of the infinite subtlety of a Joey Baron or a Paul Motian.
But I want to return to my thought about Noble’s and Clarvis’ thorough-going professionalism, which for me was the hallmark of the evening. These two know from experience, in their very different ways, how to pull in the attention of an audience.
I know I shall hold in the memory the unique experience of having heard a Professor of pianoforte from Birmingham Conservatoire- on Steinway- and a Professor of percussion from the Royal Academy of Music -on spoons- skipping their way through the Country Waltz from “Brother Where Art Thou.”
But above all I shall hold in my mind from last night at the Vortex the faces of two small children accompanied by their parents. Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag had both of them completely captivated. They were smiling, and I sensed that without all those grown-ups around, both of their young faces would have burst out into laughter.
This music, live, played by professionals such as Noble and Clarvis who put their hearts and souls into it, has communicative power, joy and humour. Maybe grown-ups get in the way, and it takes a six year-old to understand such things.
I am not always sure that the “live experience” is always better. Different maybe. As the performers can use the visual as well as the aural and the fact that the music is being created in the room at the time to their advantage. These two other chances to get the music through can often allow the live gig to hide the inadequacy of the music. Not in this case. All came together well to make a multi-aural experience.