Review: Vincent Herring’s Earth Jazz Agents + The Polly Gibbons Quartet,
(Ronnie Scott’s, February 6th 2010 – second show, Review by Rob Mallows)
Alto saxophonist Vincent Herring is steeped in straight-ahead jazz, and has played with everybody, but with the Earth Jazz Agents he has been combining his improvisational chops with funk-jazz and fusion. It’s a fascinating combination. Herring’s Coltrane and Cannonball-influenced sound soars and swoops over a rhythm section which draws to mind seventies Hancock, Bootsy Collins and Weather Report. Their new album Morning Star (Challenge Records) shows off the band’s strengths well.
Herring’s an engaging stage character. He builds audience rapport by telling hilarious anecdotes before each tune. He quickly got the audience laughing, and his interplay with his band was a blast. But he typically remains on stage for only half of the set, content to stand to one side having established a song and watch his compadres draw out the funk and fusion elements before re-establishing a hard-bop focus. When the whole ensemble blows, it’s a great sound; but Herring has created a group where everyone’s solos are not simply a chance to step briefly out of the shadow of the front man but an opportunity for each player to take a song somewhere else.
Giving Earth Jazz Agent’s its funky heart was Swiss drummer Joris Dudli who, like Herring, has a straight ahead background but deftly funked it up on tracks like 74th & Columbus and Soul Hero, a picture of Swiss precision with his towel around his neck, boxer-style.
Keyboardist Anthony Wonsey cooked up a real storm on both acoustic and electric piano with a freewheeling style and melodic references to a whole heap of jazz styles. He also introduced a number of tunes he composed from the new album: of these, Do You Remember Me? Was a definite highlight.
Honours on the night went to bassist/band producer Richie Goods. He took not just one but two fantastic solos on Soul Leo, walking to the front of stage and blasting the audience with high-energy funk-jazz bass with crazy sounds from his array of pedal.
Earlier on, vocalist Polly Gibbons had provided a contrasting start to the evening bringing her soulful yet throaty voice to the stage, with an eclectic mixture of tracks including Come Rain and Shine and Cole Porter’s Love for Sale – and two rounds of Happy Birthday for audience members, sung high-pitched, Minnie Mouse-style. Ably backed by the exuberant Tom Cawley on piano, Sam Burgess on bass and the ever-entertaining Chris Dagley on drums, Gibbons did enough to capture the attendance of a far-less-than-ideally-attentive audience. But her dedication of For All We Know to Sir John Dankworth did, rightly, focus the audience’s attention properly, and reminded us all of the music world’s great loss.