I sense that the Friday night Ronnie Scott’s audience may have more people out celebrating than on the other nights of the week. Even if they are merely congratulating themselves having survived the whole week, they do want a good time. Some have genuine excuses to celebrate: Natalie Williams’ survey of the audience during her warm-up set located no fewer than three groups out there in the dark, who were prepared to admit they had come out to celebrate a birthday. And she was having her own birthday celebrations, giving herself the poetic licence to have them last the whole week.
It’s not difficult to learn how to celebrate at Ronnie’s. You leave your cares and impedimenta back at the office, or pay a pound to leave them at the coat-rack. You thus walk care-free into the club, and sit back (quietly!) and enjoy music which is created as an expression of the pleasure of the moment in which it is created.
Williams, with her sunny platform manner, wanted to go further. She made a bold attempt to get the audience fully involved with an impromptu invitation to sing. There were very few takers.
But this good-humoured audience clearly did enjoy the main act of the evening, Storms/ Nocturnes: Tim Garland on saxophones and bass clarinet, flanked by masterly vibraphonist Joe Locke, and ever-inventive pianist Geoff Keezer. These fine musicians deserved, and duly got attentive, appreciative silence throughout.
Garland was on top form right from the off last night, the first of four shows over two nights at Ronnie’s. He launched into the fast-moving Trinity on soprano sax, bringing out with relish every irregular rhythmic contour in the tune.
Joe Locke’s energy and sheer speed on vibraphone are to be marvelled at. But it was the beauty of his long-phrased introduction to a new tune, Love is a Pendulum, hushed the house completely, which got some of the most fervent applause of the evening.
Hibiscus, a tune by pianist Geoff Keezer showed him at his best. There was Debussyan reverie from both him and Locke. Without a bass player Keezer brought astonishing clarity and definition to the bass lines. Paul McCartney’s Blackbird was another highlight, Garland caressing and moulding the tune with great beauty in the upper range of the tenor saxophone.
Garland explained that there were things for the band onstage to celebrate too. This trio, currently touring, was having a happy reunion, having hardly played together in the past seven years. They were clearly enjoying the non-stop throwing-out rhythmic challenges to each other.
But all three were at their totally committed best in the last programmed number, Blues for Little Joe. “Big Joe,” Garland explained, is Joe Locke. But “Little Joe” is Garland’s son, who, in the period since the tune was composed, has battled – successfully – against serious illness. There was huge energy coming off the stage, the involvement of the Friday night audience was complete, Keezer’s left hand rumbled the bass strings of the piano: When there is such a compelling, celebratory reason for playing a tune, you reach the perfect circle.
Photo Credit: Nadja von Massow/ 2007
Storms/ Nocturnes are on again tonight at http://www.ronniescotts.co.uk / 020 7439 0747