Review: Tom Stone Nonet, Oliver’s Music Bar, Greenwich 13th May 2009
Oliver’s in Nevada Street, Greenwich has exactly the kind of atmosphere which so many people – and not just those who actually like the music, but others too….- tend to enthuse about when they think of jazz clubs. This bar is an authentic, dimly-lit basement dive. The stairs down to it are so narrow, it’s hard to figure out exactly how a vibraphone or a bass- or indeed a large blogger – could ever make their way down to it for last night’s gig. But, dear readers, they all did.
The bar’s owner Oliver Reveault came to the UK from La Rochelle in France in the early 1980’s. The fierce Atlantic storms which batter the Aquitaine coast have chiselled a distinctly weather-beaten look into his face. (Ooh, I’m enjoying this!)
But six years of running a caveau has made him a very happy man. Partly because he’s no longer anyone’s employee, but also because he just loves music. Oliver’s is a seven nights a week music venue. The piano is kept well-tuned, and Reveault is also proud to be able give students from Trinity College a daytime rehearsal space. During last night’s long set by the Tom Stone nonet, I noticed that there was nobody in the room more watchful than Reveault. He was enjoying absolutely every moment of the gig.
Last night’s gig – which I first heard about via Facebook in the morning – was 21-year old Tom Stone‘s first outing as bandleader. Stone plays the four saxes, but tenor is emerging as a very confident and persuasive voice indeed.
Stone started out with jazz in his teens as a private pupil of that cornerstone, giant of the young British scene Stan Sulzmann,who nurtured and encouraged his music. Stone is now a student at the Royal Academy, studying with Iain Ballamy and Tim Garland, having previously been at Trinity with Martin Speake.
The gig drew a full house to this small venue, mostly a superbly attentive student audience.
The evening started with the solid rhythm section of ever-inventive Sam Leak on piano, busy Peter Randell on bass and subtle Dave Hammill on drums backing different pairs of front line players through three tunes. First up were James Bateman on alto sax and Will Rixon on trumpet. This group had that laid-back hipster West Coast feel in All the Things You Are. I found Rixon’s Chet Baker coolness and warm sound particularly stylish and appealing. Then Tom Stone on tenor and Patrick Hayes on trombone upped the energy level several notches for Rollins’ Tenor Madness. Stone’s first solo had real presence, focus and line. The third pairing was Tim Evans on vibes, with Mick Foster – a veteran in this company – on baritone, a model of concentrated lyricism in Victor Young’s Beautiful Love.
These forces then all squeezed onto the stand together as a nonet to play Tom Stone originals, plus one chart by Steve Slagle- a very stylish Gil Evansish arrangement of Coltrane’s After the Rain done as a tenor sax feature. Stone stretched out on this to very good effect, with both passion and control.
What I will remember about the evening, a beginning, a rite of passage, is the security of the writing for full band in the passages immediately following the open soloing sections. Stone brought the whole band back to business in the first tune- called Theme – with clever, irregular, catch-us-if-you-can tutti figures, scattered over drum breaks. In the final number, Gwenver, it was the beginning of a layering , building all the way through to a satisfying full band close.
A confident debut full of promise for a fine young musician, arranger and bandleader carefully, unhurriedly building his craft.
I really enjoyed this gig too – and the company!
What a frightening array of young talent. Unbelievable. Blimey, it’s time to roll over, lock the piano lid and hang up the larynx.