Review and pictures by Garry Corbett
The Red Lion, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham UK
“Atlantic Quartet succeeds with originality, clarity and eclecticism.” So said no less an august body than the New York Times. At the Red Lion on Friday evening we had the advantage over the Times. We had a quintet. And what a great quintet. Mitch Perrins leading from the drums and providing all of the compositions by way of his Survival Suite, Tommaso Starace and Nick Dewhurst on alto sax and trumpet/flugelhorn, Mike Green, bass and Gareth Fowler, guitar made up the ensemble. The music was especially powerful in the small club room which Birmingham Jazz favours and which a tightly packed audience clearly enjoy.
Perrins spent ten years living and working in New York playing some prestigious venues during that time with some fine musicians. It was our good fortune to hear this spirit close up in his original compositions which manage to nod to the past while making a contemporary statement. My highlights of the ten numbers which made up the two sets included his mood setting use of pre-recorded spoken introductions from media broadcasts particularly effective on Warm Message, the second set opener inspired by the events following the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina of August 2005. Following the intro Perrins’ drumming was powerfully to the fore to be joined by percussion and vocal chants from Starace and Dewhurst setting up a New Orleans mood before taking us into fine solos from guitarist Gareth Fowler and some great ensemble riffs from Starace and Dewhurst who also provided solos.
Under the Grey, we were told, was inspired by a return to the UK from NYC and particularly by the weather. Here we were treated to a recorded voice intro from Winston Churchill telling us that “in all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this” which segued into a short string introduction to a lovely slow-paced theme which then moved through several time changes with a fiery alto solo from Starace who bobbed and weaved with the complex tempo changes. Starace handed the baton to Nick Dehurst whose bright ringing tone filled the room. His playing throughout the night was passionate and full of energy. By contrast his flugelhorn feature on Opportunity Knocks was tender and quite beautiful and for me a highlight of an evening filled with great music. Tommaso Starace featured on Booze Blues which Perrins admitted to “writing in about five minutes as an exercise”, adding that it put the agonising over some of the more complex pieces into perspective. This number had Starace bopping, weaving and grimacing like a bar-room blues shouter and proved that simple can sometimes be just what’s needed. More great guitar work here from Gareth Fowler who was on great form.
Both sets finished with Theme which allowed Perrins to introduce the musicians in time honoured fashion. The thunderous audience applause said it all. Cries of “more” and “encore” were unfortunately not reciprocated as these in-demand musicians had a date with a train and needed to be elsewhere.
Another great Birmingham Jazz promotion at the Red Lion.
- The next Birmingham Jazz gig at this venue sees Max Luthert’s Orbital take the stage on Friday. Luthert is followed on 11 March by Andrew Woodhead’s Trio, and on 22 April by the excellent Nick Dewhurst Band. Mark your calendars!
- For more of Garry Corbett’s photographs, go to his Flickr site here.
Categories: Live review