Review: Sunday night jazz at the Salisbury, Harringay

Nick Jurd (bass)
Pencil drawing at the Salisbury by Geoff Winston.
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved

Hans Koller Quartet and Matt Ratcliffe Trio
(The Salisbury, Harringay, Sunday, 12 February 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The Salisbury pub is a Harringay landmark – and is the venue that is putting jazz on the map in the area. Sunday’s quality gig was the third of the series co-curated by Birmingham Jazz, the second city’s Cobweb Collective and locally-based musicians Hans Koller, Ryan Williams and Andy Button. Jack Davies wrote a feature about the series. The Birmingham Conservatoire’s links were strong; Koller teaches on the jazz course and Matt Ratcliffe’s Trio are all alumni.

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This double bill was a nicely balanced platform for emerging and experienced talents alike, with strong classic roots running through the whole evening. Monk, Shorter, Nichols and Wheeler pieces featured in Koller’s set and Tristano and Waldron were mixed in with Ratcliffe’s own standards-based compositions for the second.

Both pianists led by example, their distinctive styles shaping the course of each number, yet sitting back to allow space for each musician to give rein to their technical and expressive prowess and a well-honed sense of small group dynamics.

Koller has a subversively deviant streak in his quiet improvisations and, as with Gerd Dudek a couple of weeks ago at the Vortex, he favoured the inclusion of demanding repertoire such as Nichol’s ‘Step Tempest’ to stretch his quartet. Teamed with Jeff Williams, he has one of the most accomplished and versatile drummers on the scene, with snares and cymbals shaping the percussive tone in their ‘straight ahead’ set.

Nick Jurd‘s light and supple bass style found easy resonance with Williams and with Mike Fletcher‘s impressive alto. The English pastoral mood of Kenny Wheeler’s ‘We Support The Night’ was the perfect vehicle for Jurd’s limber runs with Williams picking his accent points in response and Fletcher dropping in to build up the momentum.

Fletcher was the key to the statement and restatement of themes with a clear, acoustic sound that leant towards Pepper rather than Hodges. The conversational phrasing of his less-is-more delivery was underpinned by a mature confidence and he could up the ante to fill the room with powerhouse volume.

In the second set, Tymek Jozwiak proved to be an engaging drummer with impressive ability, who responded in kind to Matt Ratcliffe’s energetic lead, with a range that took in the softest of mallet touches and crisp flights of swinging brushwork, enjoying light, rhythmic banter with Jurd, who doubled on bass for both groups.

Ratcliffe’s piano anchored a glutinous, lingering dissection of Monk’s ‘Misterioso’ which led circuitously back to its blues roots to round off the final set with challenging, oblique style.

The attentive, enthusiastic audience helped make the make the whole evening gell, auguring well for the Salisbury’s fortnightly jazz programme and the treats it has in store.

Hans Koller Quartet
Hans Koller – Piano
Mike Fletcher – Alto Saxophone
Nick Jurd – Bass
Jeff Williams – Drums

Matt Ratcliffe Trio
Matt Ratcliffe – Piano
Nick Jurd – Bass
Tymek Jozwiak – Drums

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