Cheltenham Jazz Festival review: more gigs in brief

Mike Stern and Bill Evans fool for the camera. Photo © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk – for John’s Cheltenham gallery click on the picture.

Mike Stern and Bill Evans fool for the camera. Photo © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk – for John’s Cheltenham gallery click on the picture.

Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham UK
03/04/05-05-2013

In between the concerts I have reviewed in more depth elsewhere on thejazzbreakfast I also enjoyed:

Marius Neset Quartet, Parabola Arts Centre: The Norwegian saxophonist had played a magnificent set two nights before at the mac in Birmingham but to a strangely sparse and therefore somewhat subdued crowd. This Cheltenham Jazz Festival gig was as it should be: a packed house of enthusiasts who were up for a fine and exhilarating time. And, boy, did they get it. Similar material to the Birmingham gig (review here) but a marathon duo of Marius on tenor drummer Anton Eger was the very peak of a high altitude gig.

Edition Quartet, Parabola Arts Centre: A night later and Neset was back, this time in a band of Edition Records artists led by the label’s co-boss Dave Stapleton from the piano and also featuring Neil Yates on trumpet and Daniel Herskedal on tuba. The mix of timbres, from Yates’s breathy, vocalised trumpet, through Neset mining his mellow tone and Herskedal’s warm tuba, all underpinned and decorated by the pianism of Stapleton made for a perfect late-night unwinding session.

Here is a taste of the soundcheck:

Mike Gibbs Ensemble, Jazz Arena: An hour spent with the Zimbabwean-born, US-resident composer/arranger and the band that pianist Hans Koller formed to play his music is a happy and satisfying one indeed. I reviewed this band and this material when they played at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham (read it here) and it was lovely to hear them again. Gibbs writes tight, attractive charts full of rich sonorities and with loads of room for featured soloists. Lluis Mather was on particularly fine form on Carla Bley’s Ida Lupino.

The band has recorded this material and it will be released on double bassist Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label pretty soon, but concert-goers on Saturday had the added bonus of being able to buy an advance copy.

Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band, Big Top: I have been complaining elsewhere of sound leaking in on quiet, delicate moments in jazz performances. Here, I was in the more fortunate position of being in the tent while the sound leaked out (yep, the analogy in your head right now can stand). This was jazz-rock fusion in the grand tradition, with searing saxophone solos and shredding guitar ones. I was told Mr Dave Weckl’s cymbals had been specially flown in from Japan (he is a Yamaha endorsee) and that he has his very own drum technician who attends all his gigs. It was certainly the best drum sound I have heard in a high volume context.

This does feel a little like the music of dinosaurs, but the more world-music influenced, wordless vocal pieces Stern writes (he has Richard Bona do them on his albums) as well as his incorrigible grins and the pair’s clear desire to please saved the day.

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  1. Review roundup – Cheltenham and more | Mainly jazz in Bristol

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