Live review

Alex Hitchcock Quintet at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Alex Hitchcock Quintet
(Pizza Expresss Jazz Club, 3 July 2019. Review by Lauren Bush)

Tenor saxophonist Alex Hitchcock and his quintet have just finished off a 10-stop tour at Pizza Express Jazz Club. Wednesday night featured special guest Laura Jurd, on trumpet, who kindly stepped in for James Copus on this occasion. 

The Alex Hitchcock Quintet at Pizza Express (Photo: Lauren Bush)

The set kicked off with a funky modal tune, as Hitchcock stood back and showcased the other band members. Exchanged glances and respectful head nods during Jurd’s first solo set the tone for the evening – these guys love playing music together. 

The vibes continued, slower, more mellow and we got to hear Hitchcock play his first solo of the night, calm and collected, beautifully built. The night featured all original compositions, mostly from his new album All Good Things. The wide variety of modern grooves was intriguing, led mostly by unison horn lines reminiscent of Ornette Coleman and Wayne Shorter tunes, adding a rich thickness to the melodies that Jurd played with confidence. They were intertwined with interesting undulations from the rhythm section, mostly spurred forward by Will Barry on piano, whose solos were thoughtful and sophisticated. Bassist Joe Downard was like the glue in both musicality and mood as he responded enthusiastically on each piece. 

Hitchcock nicely planned and organised the selection of tunes as the whole evening had an ebb and flow about it. His compositions allowed for each musician to play off one another in captivating pairings between piano and drums, bass and trumpet – call and response factoring into so much of the group dynamic. A piece in the middle featured Hitchcock on an a capella sax solo that he built up, using arpeggios of varying layers of dissonance, the audience quietly waited to see what would happen next. In Sorry Not Sorry, a duel ensued between Downard on the bass and Jay Davis on drums, who launched into a wild frenzy at quite a brisk pace by the end!

Hitchcock shared stories with a sense of humour and political awareness as he introduced a new tune with a semi-autobiographical element called Bin Raccoon. His music shares the same sensitivity and consciousness that he expresses personally.  

Just as the evening had started with a display of each instrument, the final song was a burning number that gave each musician a chance to stand out – this time with energy aplenty, as if they were just getting started. And after this solid undertaking, I bet they are.

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