Vasilis Xenopolous Quartet
(Great Northern Railway Tavern, London N8. 10th October 2013. Review by Brian Blain)
First it was on; then the word was that the place had closed; then, the day before, the grapevine,which includes this splendid disseminator of news,reported that there had been a stay of execution, and that the gigs organised by musicians Stu Butter field and Mick Sexton at the Great Northern Raiway Tavern in Hornsey High Street would continue.
Attendance was inevitably hit, but there were enough present to raise a racket and, in all honesty, I cannot think of any band which would have put on a better performance than the Vasilis Xenopolous Quartet. This was my first encounter with guitarist Nigel Price ,of whose organ trio I had nothing but great things, and on the evidence of this date he is right up there with Jim Mullen and Mike Walker. His playing was just fabulous (the kind that sometimes makes you just sit there and grin like a fool) with Wes Montgomery inspired chordal comping or used as a springboard for solos which moved in all kinds of directions, with a fleet, effortless technique that put me in mind of Pat Martino. And all the time there was that deep,deep blues bedrock feeling with,sometimes, just a touch of country: a total master.
You have got to have real chops and imagination to match him and tenorist Vasilis Xenopolous had them both with a great edgy sound when needed or something softer for the occasional ballad like Duke’s ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ He has a marvellous sense of structure , with choruses building logically on the ones before so that even on a furious Rollins classic Pent Up House you felt that you were in the presence of someone actually composing on the spot and in total control of his material-the very essence of jazz musicianship.
This was a band of still young players and the youngest, bassist Mark Rose and drummer Chris Nickolls sparked the front line all evening. Nice that Rose had some space on the Mingus classic Nostalgia in Times Square with lovely half-time bass patterns on a lengthy introduction before the horns kicked in and roared us into Mingus ecstasy land.
Watch out for these guys. Unfashionable? Perhaps- but the real thing nevertheless.