Live review

Dave Douglas and Joey Baron at the 2022 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Dave Douglas and Joey Baron
(Jazz Arena, Cheltenham Jazz Festival. 30 April 2022. Live review by Jon Turney)

Joe Baron. Photo John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk

A duo combining the two ur-instruments whose names double as verbs might suggest a combative encounter, but this one was sublimely co-operative. Trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummer Joey Baron go way back, though had only played one duo gig before (as Baron just about remembered on Douglas’s prompt).

But they are two of the best listeners in the business so this deeply satisfying hour felt like dipping into a creative conversation that has been going on for decades. A mix of standards (Monk), self-penned compositions and improvisations all fitted seamlessly into their dialogue. There were drum interludes but the pair were thoroughly interactive almost all the time: Douglas poised thoughtfully stage left, Baron quiveringly alert to his every peeled off phrase and half-squeezed note.

Their instant intimacy made the cavernous canvas space feel like the finest kind of jazz club. The trumpeter generally laid down the melody – though Baron is the most melodic of drummers, and took the lead there once or twice as well. He also, as perhaps all great drummers do, has extraordinary control of the sound he gets, with sticks, mallets, brushes or hands, from every piece of his kit. Waiting a fraction of a second to hear what he will do next is the keenest pleasure.

Dave Douglas. Photo John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk

One for the jazz aficionados, perhaps: the solid beat drifting over from the big top caught the players’ ear once or twice and elicited wry comment. But also one of those sets when as well as appreciating the actual music it is uplifting to be in the space where someone is doing something so astoundingly well. Just an hour, but it will stay in the mind much longer.

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