It was in 2021 that trumpeter Paul (Harry) Dowler managed to bring together a small group of semi-professional jazz musicians and convince them that the year 1959 was not only the pinnacle of mainstream jazz, but it was also the year of his birth so they should form an “Old-Fashioned Jazz Combo” and call it “Jazz 59 Quintet”. Later it became a sextet consisting of trumpet, saxophone, guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. In 2021 Paul and his wife Heather decided to organise a Charity Jazz Concert which was a such a success that they realized not only were they enjoying themselves but that they had inadvertently created a unique fundraising vehicle – so they convinced the performers that if they claimed just travel expenses they would be raising funds for a very good cause. A wonderful idea – and it worked!
Jazz is a fusion of African and European music and was developed in the USA in the early part of the 20th century and was well established by the year 1959! The rhythmic and chordal features used then are still evident in our modern era. The programme began with a powerful, cadenza-like solo from Paul demonstrating the full range of the instrument, before being joined by the rest of the group. As is the tradition, each member of the group had the opportunity to perform his own variation of the main theme thus making us aware of what a talented group they are. It was a varied programme from the slow, lazy feel of “Blue in Green” then “Yesterday” and “Beautiful Love” to the lively “Moments’ Notice” and it was obvious that they really enjoyed performing together. There was extra applause after “When I Fall in Love” in which Paul had used two trumpets, one in each hand, (one muted to produce the tonal variation for the alternate lines of the lyrics). It was a most enjoyable performance. In contrast “One for Daddy O” brought the concert to a close with lots of toe-tapping and smiles all round. There was much well-deserved applause - and admiration of their snazzy waistcoats!
“Sax a Trois” was the group of musicians who entertained us at our April meeting and what a talented group they were. Anna Young, Paynor Tsate and Samantha Matthews from the Birmingham Conservatoire have all won prizes for their solo performances and as members of trios and quartets. The accompanist was Charles Matthews, a tutor in piano and organ at the Conservatoire. He is in great demand for his legendary accompanying skills not just at the Conservatoire but also in the wider circle of professional music making.
The programme consisted of a trio to both begin and end the entertainment with each student playing a solo piece in each half of the programme.
“Dance for three Saxophones” (originally for three violins) arranged by Charles Matthews set the scene with a very robust and rhythmic performance with excellent attention to detail. Anna then played “Fuzzy Bird Sonata” by Tokashi Yoshimatsu in which after several attempts Fuzzy Bird finally manages to take flight. After the interval Anna played Vocalise by Messiaen which demonstrated her beautiful legato tone quality. Paynor chose “Majorca” by Albeniz which, as expected, displayed a real Spanish atmosphere particularly as Paynor was very keen to highlight the rhythmic content. For his second piece he chose “Escapades” (from the film “Catch me if you can”) by John Williams. After the opening section the mood became mysterious with a rather free rhythmic content before ending with “Joy Ride” which brought the piece to a very lively conclusion. Samantha played “Concerto” in three short movements by Lee Actor and in the second half she played the soprano saxophone and played “Fujiko” by Andy Scott. This demonstrated her control of the instrument and her beautiful smooth legato playing as the piece ended very softly and mysteriously. The final piece is best known when played by three violins but Pachelbel’s “Canon” nevertheless was an interesting choice and in the hands of such talented performers one could always hear the melody as it is passed from one player to the next.
Charles, as usual, was superb in the way he coped with some unbelievably difficult accompaniments and, after an evening of excellent music-making, the performers were rewarded with long, enthusiastic and well-deserved applause.
On May 18th the Pavilionaires provided a lively and entertaining evening of jazz for the Shipston Music Society. The instrumentalists in this group obviously enjoy playing together and their musicianship and enthusiasm shone through in each item on the programme. As in all traditional jazz there were sections highlighting a solo instrument and these were all performed with skill and assurance.
The guest vocalist was Gayle Burch whose clear diction and vocal style were ideally suited to such titles as “The Lady is a Tramp” and “I can’t give you anything but love”. After the interval “The nearness of you” with reduced backing and in a gentler style made a good contrast and allowed Gayle to demonstrate her excellent vocal control.
The guitarist and bass player also had vocal spots but this brings me to the one aspect of the evening which, I feel, needs attention – that of balance. The group is lucky to have a very talented flautist, an excellent exponent of jazz, whose clear tone adds enormously to the overall sound. However, for these two items it overpowered the efforts of the vocalists. Such a pity. Also, the Methodist Church is a small, intimate setting where amplification is rarely necessary and clearly some members of the audience felt that on this occasion it was excessive.
Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable evening ending with “When you’re smiling” with audience participation which sent everyone home “with a smile”.
December saw a visit from local musicians, The Pavilionaires.
They were founded in 2013 and have grown to around 8 musicians, increasing occasionally with visiting ones. The group comprises keyboard , guitar, bass, alto and tenor sax, trumpet and, on this occasion, a guest vocalist - and as founder Geoff Holtom explained, some members of the group had only taken up a musical instrument after retirement. So all credit to them for taking this forward, performing for the public and giving such enjoyment.
Gentle jazz was the tone of the evening and the group played a number of well known songs – Misty, The A train, Stranger on the Shore, White Christmas to name a few – as well as less known ones. Vocalist Gayle Burch’s voice lended itself well to these songs, and her, at times, ‘smoky’ interpretation was just right. Their ability to conjure up an atmosphere was very good, and perhaps particularly noticeable in their rendition of St James’ Infirmary which transported the audience straight to New Orleans!
There was a really good and appreciative audience for this concert, and we will look forward to seeing them grow in the years to come, and to welcoming them back to play for us again in the future.