Dick Oatts Ensemble at Pizza Express Dean Street, 20/21 Jan. (Album launch gigs for ‘Reunion’ with Gareth Lockrane on Blau Records)

Legendary alto saxophonist Dick Oatts is returning to London this month for two nights at Pizza Express Dean Street. The first of the nights is on the date of the album release of”Reunion” (Blau Records). And on the second night the quartet becomes a quintet with the addition of Gareth Lockrane, who is also on the record.

The backstory here goes back to 2014 when Stephen Keogh was invited to play with Dick Oatts at the Cork Jazz Festival. Also in the band were two other great musicians; Bruce Barth on piano, and Mark Hodgson on bass. All of them seemed to hit it off both on and off stage and since then they have been playing once or a twice a year when opportunities present themselves.

Then, in 2016 Keogh was visting New York which happened to coincide Gareth Lockrane’s being there. Gareth Lockrane has huge respect and admiration for Dick Oatts, and wrote a wonderful piece for LJN in 2016 about Dick Oatts, and about the circumstances in which they got to know each other – link below.

Dick Oatts in London in 2016. Photo by Melody McLaren

Stephen Keogh picks up the story….

Gareth and I had both planned to pass by the Village Vanguard on a Monday night to hear the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and say hello to friends and we ended up there on the same Monday. It was a great evening of music. I knew that Gareth had previously sent some of his arrangements for Dick to have a look at, and during the course of the night I remembering hearing Dick comment to other members of the band that the material was very good and worth having a serious look at the charts.

Time past and after several tours in Spain and the UK during the following years we found ourselves in the UK in November 2019. The band on this occasion was Dick, Ross Stanley on piano, Mark Hodgson and myself on drums. We had a free day in the schedule and I thought it might be a good idea to go into the studio and record. I called Gareth for the date as I remembered how well he and Dick regarded each other’s playing and writing and felt the chemistry would be good. It really was.

All the tracks are original compositions by Dick or by Gareth. We recorded it at Red Gables Studios on November 19, 2019. Then the pandemic struck. When things finally started to open up again we got a booking at Pizza Express for January 20 & 21, 2023.

I contacted Fernando Marco, who started a label several years ago in Spain and has built a very interesting catalogue including albums by Benny Golson, Scott Hamilton and more. He immediately took it on board and it is to be officially released on 20 January on the Blau Records label. The album is called “Reunion”.

Charles Rees has had an early copy of the album, and writes:

That Dick Oatts and Gareth Lockrane had never recorded an album together prior to Reunion would not be the first assumption of a listener, as the musical rapport shared by the two players shines through from the very first phrase of the album’s opener, “Alaina”. Lockrane’s admiration of Oatts is a well documented, but this is the first proper, first-hand evidence most of us will have had of the depth of Lockrane’s knowledge and assimilation of Oatts’s musical way of being over many years. The writing responsibilities are shared just about evenly between the two, which likewise sounds to be an expression of their mutual respect. The affinities run so deep, it is impossible to identify who has composed which track.

An Oatts-Lockrane record has been a long time coming and does not disappoint. 


Dick Oatts (alto saxophone)

Ross Stanley (piano)

Mark Hodgson (bass)

Stephen Keogh (drums)

Gareth Lockrane (flutes) (Jan 21 only)

LINKS: Bookings for the Dick Oatts Ensemble at Pizza Express

Gareth Lockrane’s 2016 piece about Dick Oatts for LJN

Blau Records website

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