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Review: Ben Holder Quartet at @OxJazz

Ben Holder Quartet
(Cibo! Oxford Jazz Festival, 3rd April 2012. Review by Catherine Marks)

Finding a seat or even space to stand in Summertown’s Cibo! restaurant on Tuesday night was quite a challenge. This was only the second evening of the 2012 Oxford Jazz Festival, and technically part of their ‘fringe’ festival before the big names at the weekend, but the festival already felt in full flow. The Ben Holder Quartet attracted by a really enthusiastic crowd, who cheered and clapped at every opportunity, even though half were eating.

At just 22 years old, jazz violinist Ben Holder is a really confident band leader, playing with a talented group consisting of Jez Cook on guitar, Frank Hockney on drums and Paul Jefferies on double bass.

The repertoire of the quartet focused on jazz standards. Ben Holder has the warmth and flexibility of a sax player, and all the extra possibilities of a string instrument – lightning speed harmonics, col legno, glissando and double stopping. Chilled and confident, he also has the capaciy to switch seamlessly within the same bar from virtuosic violin to vocals, bringing warm tone to numbers such as ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’.

It all felt very natural, and an improvised duet between Jez Cook’s electric guitar and violin in the middle of a piece showed that he could switch from soloist to being part of a dialogue just as easily.

Ben said that he always tries to play something for everyone’s taste. And slipping some classical quotes into the music, such as Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’, made a lovely contrast.

Ben is much more playful than this classical heritage might imply. He puts on a hugely enjoyable show, really involving the crowd from start to finish. The staff were dancing behind the bar to this incredibly chilled virtuoso, and I can certainly see big things ahead.

Oxford Jazz Festival

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