Review: Way Out West Eddie Harvey Celebration in Richmond (LJF)

Dave Jones, Tony Kinsey, Pete Hurt
Way Out West, Richmond, November 2013 

Way Out West Presents ‘Celebrating Eddie Harvey’
(Duke Street Church, Richmond. 20th November 2013 (LJF). Review by Sebastian Scotney)

“Music is good. But the greatest art form of all is to know how to live.” The most poignant moment in this second concert celebrating the life and music of Eddie Harvey, and timed around what would have been his eighty-eighth birthday came when saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos, who had known Eddie ever since he first came to the UK to be taught by him in 2002, remembered this remark which Eddie  had made to him just a few days before he died. (Peter Vacher’s review of the first concert is here).

Others brought their memories too – bassist  Dave Jones remembered conversations about fishing, Pete Hurt the Friday afternoon ’embroidery circle’ which still exists as a context to drink and tell stories in good company.

However, this was not mainly an evening of memories, but a thoughtfully planned programme of music during which nine of the fifteen musicians playing (plus two others- Nette Robinson and Tim Whitehead) had their compositions and arrangements of works inspired by Eddie Harvey performed by a top-class band of regulars from the Way Out West collective, and some special guests (full personnel is below).

Eddie had been a member of the Way Out West collective, his gigs had always been among the most popular, and his involvement had helped Way Out West’s regular gig to become what it is today, one of the cornerstone musician-led regular gigs of the London scene. So the evening was about expressing gratitude,  remembering what for all involved had been a special association. And the way all that was expressed was to follow on from Eddie’s example, and to create new music.

The formula was that each musician/composer should use Eddie Harvey’s tune The Knight of the Jazz Stable as an inspiration or a jumping-off point for a composition to be performed at the concert.

Compositions which caught my ear – there’s no room to mention all ten –  were Chris Biscoe‘s A Able Stable Table  (the title is far too cryptic to explain here) with a front line involving two interwoven alto clarinets being made to think and sink low, and two trumpets jostling at altitude, finishing with a repeated single note on the piano as an idee fixe. Definitely one to hear again.

Emily Saunders’ Mash-Up was a helter-belter, playful at speed with asymmetric phrases, something I can only describe as being like Hermeto Pascoal finding himself on holiday – at a serial music conference in Darmstadt. Vasilis Xanopolous’ composition was a student work called For Eddie, playfully alternating between swing and three-time.

The first half closer, Jambalara from Tony Kinsey from an 11-piece band brought back the thought that it must be high time the London Jazz Festival honoured this legend of British jazz with a big band gig. Kinsey, at 86 (!), is an astonishingly sprightly and positive player.

You also have to admire the pluck and the dedication of this group of musicians-turned-promoters. The year-round Way Out West Wednesday gig is a fixed weekly date, but has to move elsewhere in December. This is because the Orange Tree pub, Way Out West’s home for eleven months of the year, is a prime target in December for the insatiable demand in Richmond for Christmas office party venues. As a result the music has to take flight, and find new spaces for the Wednesday gigs.

So, on December 4th and 18th the regular WOW gig will be at the Triple Crown in Kew Foot Road, and on the 11th at Don’t Tell Fred in Sheen Lane.

Performers:  Chris Batchelor, Martin Shaw (trumpets), Mark Nightinale (trombone), Tony Woods, Jimmy Hastings, Pete Hurt, Vasilis Xenopoulos, Chris Biscoe (saxophones), Kate Williams, Tom Millar (piano), Dave Jones, Mick Sexton (bass), Tony Kinsey, Gary Willcox (drums), Emily Saunders (vocal)


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