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Dylan Howe Quartet Tour

Preview: Dylan Howe Quartet: Pizza Express Dean Street, Tuesday March 15th

The Dylan Howe Quartet is in the early stages of a twenty-five date UK tour. Yes. Five times five. Twenty-five gigs.

While others sit around lamenting the decline of civilization… I absolutely take my hat off to Dylan Howe. The sheer drive and entrepreneurial flair he shows in having put this together, in being so utterly devoted to the process of allow four musicians to grow into music and to grow with it by taking it out on the road are like gold dust in these times.

I was able to catch the fourth date, Herts Jazz in the Civic Centre in Welwyn last Sunday. Londoners, the date you will – I hope… I recommend! – be putting in your diaries is Tuesday March 15th. It’s the nineteenth date of the tour.

Howe has taken the repertoire which really speaks to him, assembled a group to play it. Looking at the promo video (above), there has already been onward progress from it, more confidence, more freedom to explore, in the gig I heard last week. The collective “band sound” is starting to gel properly. Brandon Allen can use his rounded, focussed tone on tenor saxophone to state melody, to be urbane, but he is also adept at turning up the heat and the aggression. Ross Stanley on piano and synth has a wide tonal palette, and brings out the contrasts. It is somehow hard to believe, seeing how assured he is, that bassist Tim Thornton was still a conservatoire student until last summer.

Dylan Howe himself has huge creativity and energy to bring to all of these situations. His irrepressible energy and positivity doesn’t just fix the gigs. More importantly, it inspires the others in performance, spurs them on, brings life and vivacity to everything he (or his sticks or his brushes) touches.

But a project like this stands or falls by the quality of the music. Howe has sought out huge variety in the tunes which the quartet takes on, from the good-humoured waltz-time sway of the first set opener, Harry Warren’s Summer Night, through numbers by Charlie Parker (Segment) , Joe Henderson (Shade of Jade), through to what is the darkest, most challenging music on offer, David Bowie tunes such as Warszawa, Weeping Wall and Subterraneans.

The Bowie numbers from the “Berlin” period in the late 1970’s are an interesting project in their own right. Warszawa, is an intricate narrative, probably taking more than one hearing to grasp fully. It was last in the programme at the gig I went to, and made a suitable culmination to it. I’m fascinated to hear what it will sound like in London next month, after it has been played live many times. It is bound to start to really cohere and tell its story – it will be memorable. The band are due to record the material after all of the tour dates have been completed, and that too will be worth waiting for.

The Dylan Howe Quartet Tour (follow the link for dates) is supported by Jazz Services and the PRS Foundation

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