|Applause at the end of the 2017 TW12 Festival
L-R: Geoffrey Keezer, Gillian Margot, Laurence Cottle, Alyn Cosker
Geoffrey Keezer Trio feat. Gillian Margot + TC4 play Brecker
(TW12 Jazz Festival, Hampton Hill Theatre. 4 June 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
These were the final two concerts out of a total of eleven events over three days in three different venues. One can only praise the scale of Terry Collie and Janet McCunn’s endeavour, bringing top quality jazz to a wider public in the south-western suburbs of London, without the protective cushion of subsidy. This is their fifth consecutive year of operation. Audiences this year seemed down, but the quality from the stage was superb.
Earlier in the weekend they had programmed two very strong projects by two leading figures in our scene that deserve to be heard: the Gareth Lockrane Big Band and Brandon Allen’s Gene Ammons quintet project.
I witnessed the last two acts of the festival, and I was also able to hear just the very end of a particularly lively set by 2014 BBC Young Jazz Musician winner Alexander Bone with his young quartet. “The future of jazz is in good hands,” was the comment on their set of one distinguished and experienced jazz educator emerging from that concert.
|TC4 play Brecker with Roberto Manzin (centre)|
Then Festival co-director Terry Collie himself directed a quartet consisting of Roberto Manzin on tenor sax, Miles Danso on bass and Ted Carrasco. They were digging deep into the Mike Brecker legacy, mainly unearthing treasure from the album Two Blocks from the Edge.
The first reaction hearing a quartet at this level is that ‘presumably everyone else knows about them’, or perhaps to repeat the disarmingly honest comment/ question with which my esteemed colleague Brian Blain often comes back from gigs: ‘how can they be that good and yet be so little known?’
Ted (short for Theodore) Carrasco is a busy American jazz drummer based in Southampton, who has that way of constantly keeping the listener on his or her toes with something unexpected. Roberto Manzin is an Italian tenor player whose act of Breckerish bravery paid off. Superbly equipped technically, he always has something to say in beautifully constructed long solos. Miles Danso is one of those bassists who is the complete opposite of inscrutable, he lets you know as he plays through facial expression that there is purpose, intent, balance in his every note. And Terry Collie, with the weight of responsibility for the festival on his shoulders had clearly prepared and thought through the whole enterprise, the pacing and sequence of the set: he was going to enjoy this moment, and played with clarity and subtlety.
The headline act brought top quality from both Los Angeles and the UK. Both of the sets started with the top-flight trio of pianist Geoffrey Keezer (former Art Blakey Jazz Messenger, member of the Ray Brown Trio and multiple Grammy nominee…), bassist Laurence Cottle and drummer Alyn Cosker, who then became the backing band for Toronto-born singer Gillian Margot, making her UK debut. The moment from the concert that will stay in my mind longest was the opening number of the second half. The number was Stevie Wonder’s These Three Words. It elicited from Keezer the complete pantechnicon of devices one might associate with Oscar Peterson at his most flamboyant – it was as if the great Canadian monument had entered the room. It was one of many moments in the sets when the jaws of the other pianists in the audience dropped. But this was not just a breathtaking feat of piano playing. The ensemble between the three players through complex sequences was remarkable, considering the short preparation time that can have been available to them. Everything was achieved with verve, panache, energy and joy,
It was quality all the way: singer Gillian Margot also made a strong impression, first in a complex Keezer-ish arrangement of Joe Sample’s One Day I’ll Fly Away. As a singer, both emotionally and harmonically / rhythmically she delivers certainty and assuredness. Her blues – on the subject of how she intended to deal with an errant man – had a subtle intro and outro in duo with Laurence Cottle. Both of these sections were quiet masterpieces of assertion and control, and Cottle’s clever whimsical closing-off of the piece was delightfully theatrical.
These two deeply satisfying sets rounded off an uplifting, marvellous, deeply worthwhile festival.