|Chris Laurence Quartet
L-R: John Parricelli, Martin France, Chris Laurence, Frank Ricotti
Photo credit: Melody McLaren – taken at Herts Jazz on Apr 2, 2017
The Chris Laurence Quartet performed at Lauderdale House in Highgate on Thursday 27th April. Brian Blain, who has programmed jazz at this venue with its wonderfully clear and warm acoustic and friendly atmosphere for twenty years, considers it one of the very best performances he has heard there in all of that time. This is his report:
Thank goodness there are still people out there who know about quality and they packed out Lauderdale House last Thursday to hear bassist Chris Laurence‘s magnificent quartet of Frank Ricotti (vibes) John Parricelli (gtr) and Martin France (dms).
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Strange to hear Ricotti musing at the break about whether the audience might be thinking they were too ‘old fashioned’ Old fashioned? What a concept, for this was an absolute cornucopia of melodic abstraction,which, with the exception of one standard, Cole Porter’s Everything I Love, was written by writers such as Stan Sulzmann – his second one was an absolute gem, Jack Stix – several by Kenny Wheeler, including his ‘hit’ Everybody’s Song But My Own, John Surman and John Taylor, and the musician who always seems to ‘sit’ perfectly in this school, American bassist Steve Swallow.
The fabulous Parricell, all gorgeous, liquid lines and perfect dynamics has also got one in the book, Scrim, a tune that Chris informed us was in 5/4 but fast and furious as it was bore little resemblance to the feel of Paul Desmond’s chart topper; absolutely exhilarating.
For those maybe not too familiar, these four players are at the absolute peak of so many genres, and not just jazz, and it showed in the way they went to work ,sorting out the sound system and listening to each other so carefully that you felt that you could be listening to a beautifully recorded album. Every one a star but perhaps just a special word for Martin France, who played a live room magnificently: all the power that was needed but at the level that was just right for this perfect storm of melodic and almost free form swinging perfection.
Funny how a few years ago when ‘everyone’ was discussing the merits of creative European (as against moribund American) players, musicians like these seemed not to get much of a look in. It’s not too late for Festival bookers and jazzahead! choice makers to pay attention to the brilliance still under their noses.
Frank Ricotti's strangest musings were his additional liner notes for the CD reissue of his 1968 debut album 'Our Point of View' (also featuring Chris Laurence on bass). Writing in March 1999, Ricotti said that he was 'deeply embarrassed' by his own contribution to that album, listening to which was now 'a very big bringdown' for him. This from a musician whose playing was and (still is) absolutely fine as far as I'm concerned!