Review: Alan Barnes Quartet at The Home Guard Club

Alan Barnes Quartet
(The Home Guard Club in East Sheen, December 20, 2012. Review by Andrew Cartmel)

(This review from the end of last year was  held up for various reasons, but now serves to draw attention the next two gigs at this appealing, out-of-the way venue in South-West London)

I visited this gem of a venue in the autumn when it hosted a very much on-form Simon Spillett. Then, at the festive season and the turning point of winter, Alan Barnes arrived here to warm us up. He came with a quartet consisting of Mark Hodgson on bass, Robin Aspland on keyboards and Matt Skelton on drums.

It was a full house for these four, who proceeded to provide warm happy bop as they launched into I’ll Close My Eyes by Billy Reid and Buddy Kaye. Alan’s huge, full tone on baritone sax shaped into authoritative and blazing interjections to wake up those whose toes weren’t already tapping. Matt Skelton’s drums were tight, Robin Aspland laid out a lush bed of electric keyboards and Mark Hodgson’s bass was richly rhythmic.

“I’m having a great time playing with this rhythm section,” said Alan Barnes. “People ask why I live in London. Well, here’s three reasons.”

Barnes switched to alto for Art Pepper’s Straight Life, playing mad, fast bop. Skittering, scampering and adroit. Then he sat out while ultra high speed keyboards, drums and bass continued from his flawlessly integrated rhythm section. The leader returned for a scorching solo and then the band stopped on a dime.

Lazy Bones was a complete change of pace with Alan Barnes swaggering and sashaying on clarinet. It was a delicious, bluesy piece. Suddenly we were in the Deep South, and I don’t mean London. Mark Hodgson offered a slapping, strumming bass and all the players were totally in the character and mood of the song. Alan Barnes’ final clarinet solo had a memorable, piercing sweetness.

The jazz gigs at the Home Guard club are run by sax man Kelvin Christiane and his wife the singer Lesley Christiane. Kelvin went to college with Alan Barnes and they were reunited on the bandstand as Kelvin sat in on tenor for Clifford Brown’s Joy Spring. Alan sat back as Kelvin’s deft, expert playing blossomed into a forceful, flowing solo — singing, wailing and soaring.

Barnes followed, scrupulous, meditative and joyful on alto sax. Mark Hodgson and Matt Skelton played with atomic-clock precision and accuracy while Robin Aspland offered occasional, adroit fills. Barnes and Christiane alternated in a gorgeous bebop conversation before playing in parallel for the grand finale.

On Bernie’s Tune Alan Barnes returned to baritone sax while Kelvin Christiane continued to play slim, nimble tenor, dancing over the baritone’s melodious uproar. The shades of Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan seemed to be in the house. Matt Skelton provided rolling thunder on the drums.

Leslie Christiane joined the band to sing I’ve Got Your Love to Keep Me Warm — beautifully apposite for a wintry December. Leslie’s affectionate and fetching vocals received lovely backing from Kelvin, Alan and the rhythm section. When she stopped singing Kelvin took a set piece solo, followed by Alan Barnes, playing gorgeously and elliptically, at the top of his craft.

Christmas had come early in SW14.


Willie Garnett Big Band and Lesley Christiane – February 12th 2013

Peter King and the Mike Gorman Quartet – March 19th 2013

Jazz at the Home Guard Club
76a Richmond Park Road
East Sheen
London SW14 8LA
Contact John Holmes email jtedh@hotmail.com
Tickets on the door £12, concs. £10 and club members £9.
Doors open from 7.00pm, jazz from 8.00pm to 10.30pm

Categories: miscellaneous

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