Review: Concert dedicated to Jeff Clyne

Guildhall School Jazz Tutors Concert
(First night of the GSMD Annual Jazz Festival, Concert Hall, GSMD, Silk Street EC2, March 22nd 2010)

Bassist Jeff Clyne, who died unexpectedly four months ago, had played in last year’s edition of the Guildhall jazz tutors’ concert. So it was a fitting gesture to open this year’s week-long jazz festival at the Guildhall School with a concert given by many of the same personnel, and dedicated to his memory.

The rest of the week’s festival looks very promising too, building to a finale on Friday with music for big band by Mark Lockheart from the CD Days Like These, most of it being given its UK premiere performance.

The British jazz community has felt a deep sense of loss in the past few months since Clyne’s death. Nobody could express this sentiment better than Clyne’s close friend and colleague, drummer Trevor Tomkins, who spoke, after the interval of last night’s concert. He singled out Clyne’s ability to “play anything,” from free jazz to fusion to straightahead, and his total commitment to whatever music he was playing. He also referred to Clyne’s modesty, and that he was invariably his own sternest critic. This speech can’t have been easy for Tomkins to do. He delivered it briefly, thoughtfully and with touching sincerity. It was very moving to hear.

The tutor band also paid tribute to Clyne through music. Carlos Lopez-Real had done two realisations of tunes by Clyne, written for the fusion band Turning Point. The first of these, Mirror, Mirror started with an extended electric bass feature, with Geoff Gascoyne bringing out every twist and turn, and producing a strong rich tone, a true homage. The tune had both of the singers – Brigitte Beraha and Lee Gibson – producing stabbed notes way up in D trumpet territory. Jean Toussaint played a solo with style and swagger, and Malcolm Edmonstone on keyboard received loud applause for a keyboard solo with vertiginous runs and scooped and bent high notes. The audience lapped the whole thing up and were in a mood for more. The second Clyne composition was Silent Promise, with strong solos from Carlos Lopez-Real and guitarist John Parricelli, and a perfect fade to nothing at the end from Trevor Tomkins.

By contrast Brigitte Beraha‘s quiet song Sometime gathered no more than a polite ripple of applause, as if the audience had been wrong-footed by it. I thought it deserved more, and would love to hear it again. Harmonically it travels interestingly, producing delicious passing clashes for the voice with a trumpet part, eloquently played by Nick Smart. There are echoes of both Joni Mitchell and North Africa in this touching and intriguing song.

I was impressed by Martin Hathaway‘s inventive alto saxophone playing, but disappointed with his compering, which could have done with more forethought. This didn’t, however, spoil an evening with purpose which also brought some more pleasant surprises. For example, a guest who had been watching in the shadows was introduced onstage near to the end . Saxophonist Dave Liebman, on his first day over from the US, launched into Bronislaw Kaper’s Invitation with huge and beguiling energy. This performance grew in intensity, and Liebman’s traded fours with drummer Andrew Bain had unstinting ferocity.

The evening ended with the entire cast soloing over the blues form on Straight no Chaser. Trumpeter Steve Fishwick and trombonist Malcolm Earle Smith earned their warm applause. The singers tested out each other’s vocal ranges, the keyboard players – Edmonstone and Pete Saberton – chased each other at huge speed, and Steve Watts on double bass played with a warmth and a clarity which summoned memories of the evening’s admired, loved, and now much-missed dedicatee.

The remainder of the week’s programme is HERE. All events are FREE.

Categories: miscellaneous

4 replies »

  1. Gail Brand has commented by email

    Nice review about the Guildhall gig on Monday night, very thoughtful and detailed and on the money, as I was there too.

    Wasn't sure though what your comment about Martin Hathaway's compering was about. I thought his presentation was warm, engaging & funny and what he said about Jeff Clyne (who was also a friend & colleague of mine) was touching and genuinely from the heart.

    Gail, thanks for your comments, and the compliment. What matters most is that it was such a strong and worthwhile event.

    As regards the points where we differ, we all, thank God, have our personal, subjective impressions and ideas about music, and about the presentation of gigs. The live experience is different through every pair of ears and eyes. Talk soon, I hope.

  2. Thanks, Seb. I agree, it was a lovely gig and I do know that a lot of immensely hard work went into getting there.

    Yes, we all have to differ (thankfully) and subjective experiences are what makes life interesting. I know reviews aren't meant to be an exercise in flattery and a review has to reflect the event as you experienced it, but surely if you can't articulate exactly what the problem was with the gig's presentation for you, then why mention it all? It just seems a bit unnecessarily negative and not that constructive.

    Sorry we disagree on this!

    all best


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