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Review: Peter King/The Bebop All-Stars

Review: Peter King/The Bebop All-Stars
(Lund Theatre, University College School, Hampstead. Review and photos by Patrick Hadfield)

Whilst the jazzerati were out at Kenny Wheeler’s 80th birthday concert, I made my way up the icy slopes of Hampstead where altoist Peter King was playing with two scions of well established British jazz pedigree – Alec Dankworth on bass and Clark Tracey on drums – youngster Henry Armburg Jennings on trumpet and pianist Robin Aspland.

The inclement weather and bigger gigs on at the same time might have combined with the January blues and kept some of the audience away – the venue was only a third full – but those that made it were very appreciative.

The Lund Theatre – part of UCS (where english teacher and jazz pianist David Lund promoted jazz for over 25 years) – lacked some of the ambience of club, but the theatre setting meant that everyone had a good view, and there was no distracting noise. There was a feeling as we sat down that we were in for something special.

With such a line-up, the real surprise was Jennings. I knew what to expect from the others – and they didn’t disappoint at all – but Jennings delivered a sound well, well beyond his years. A fellow audience member told me he’s only eighteen and active in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, who’ve just finished a stint at Ronnie’s.

They opened as a quartet, King sitting out the Wayne Shorter tune Ping Pong. Jennings played some blistering trumpet and the rhythm section settled in to the medium-fast pace: Dankworth was grinning broadly and Tracey was clearly in the groove laying down some Art Blakey-inspired big beats. Dankworth was very expressive throughout, his face reflecting the music: it seemed like he was dancing with his bass during some of his solos.

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There followed two sets of bop and post-bop standards such as Stella By Starlight, I Can’t Get Started, Body & Soul and another Shorter number, Footprints. The quintet finished the evening with a sprightly Oleo.

King was playing well, lots of fast, Bird-like licks falling from his horn in the fast numbers. For a couple of numbers Jennings muted his trumpet, a dangerous thing to do since it invites some unavoidable comparisons (or is that just me…?) – and he stood up well. Despite his tender age, Jennings on both trumpet and flugel not only had technical skill – he has a great tone – but he had the soul to back it up as well.

There are two more gigs in the current jazz season at the Lund, presented by Ollie Rosenblatt: Alan Barnes Quartet on March 11th and local man John Etheridge with Alec Dankworth again and violinist Chris Garrick on May 6th. I’m looking forward to both.

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