Live reviews

Planck Walker at The Spotted Dog, Birmingham 

Planck Walker

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( The Spotted Dog. Birmingham . 9 November 2021. Live review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Planck Walker in 2019. Publicity photo

Planck Walker was on this occasion a quartet led by alto saxophonist Sam Norris, a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Music jazz course and featuring three graduates of the Guildhall jazz course: pianist Jay Verma, bass player Ali Watson and drummer Harry Ling.

The group has been playing together for a number of years, and this was apparent in their playing; there was very good cohesion between the various members of the group.  Their style is very much in the modern mainstream style with inventive solos from Norris, Verma and Watson.  I was particularly impressed by the interaction between Verma and Norris during the latter’s solos. 

The first set was devoted to a number of original compositions from members of the group that have been released recently on their debut EP, for which this was the official launch.  The tunes were good, but the development of the material in the solos sometimes seemed to drift, probably because the solos were just a little too long. 

The second set focussed on jazz standards with a good choice of compositions by Sam Rivers, Hoagy Carmichael (Skylark), George Shearing, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins.  This material was rather more upbeat than the original compositions in the first set, and the band relaxed into a nice groove with some excellent interaction between the four players.

The two sets worked well in the informal atmosphere of the Spotted Dog.  The Spotted Dog Tuesday evening sessions are a Birmingham institution attracting large crowds of mostly young people many of whom seem to be relatively new to jazz.  The sessions were set up originally by Mike Fletcher, and have been run ever since by various recent graduates of the jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire. 

Each week it features a couple of sets from the main band followed by a jam session.  Interestingly, having for many years started the music at about 9.15, the club now starts it at 8pm.  Earlier starts, such as the 6.30 first set at Ronnie Scott’s in London, and the 7pm first set at The Vortex, may be the result of the Covid pandemic, but may also be the new normal. 

LINKS: Planck Walker Debut EP on Spotify

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