Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
The Anglo-American quartet had expanded to a quintet since their last visit here, and if the Jazz @ The Arena audience couldn’t expand further due to having reached capacity for this lovely, intimate venue, then they made up for it with their appreciation. They whooped and cheered, they ignored the raised house lights to entice an encore from the band.
The evening started, as the newest album does, with Let’s Get Deluxe, a free-roller of a tune which sets out the Gents’ bountiful stall – a great, characterful, unified band sound, seemingly effortless passing of melodies from one instrument to another, an arrangement which manages to be both structurally complex and perfectly understandable even if being heard for the first time.
Most of the evening was devoted to the Let’s Get Deluxe album, the band’s third – It Could Have Been A Simple Goodbye, Terrace Legend, Dog Time, Speak To Me Of Home, Propane Jane – but there was also time in the generous pair of sets plus encore for You Won’t Be Around To See It and Sure Would Baby from the first album and Barber Blues, Heute Loiter and Just To See You from the second.
All of the new material is co-written and arranged by keyboard player Gwilym Simcock and guitarist Mike Walker and shows how atuned they are and also how complementary the talents they bring. They are also both extraordinarily eloquent soloists. Drummer Adam Nussbaum’s character is large and as wide-ranging as his playing – he can go from room-reverberating tom-tom thump to the gentlest of cymbal caresses in a split second – and he showed his good humour even when faced with a hi-hat that threatened to disintegrate. If Steve Rodby has a more retiring nature, his presence and distinctive sound is vital and his production experience is probably reflected in the band’s increasingly nuanced and ambitious arrangements.
New member Iain Dixon is crucial to those nuances. The reeds multi-instrumentalist had a small keyboard as well as bass clarinet, and soprano and tenor saxophones to choose from and although he played a few solos his skills were more often used in tandem with another instrument – keyboard twinned with keyboard, bass clarinet shadowing double bass – or in adding touches of colour. This is an original way of using a horn player in the band but it could have been better reflected in the stage set-up – Dixon was in the traditional out-front position and so was sometime left with nothing to play while obscuring Rodby working busily away behind him.
But that was the only minor niggle in an evening of generally unalloyed delight. One of the loveliest of the year, unquestionably.
- This was the first date in an extensive UK and European tour, so you can catch them in Leeds tomorrow, Manchester on Wednesday, Oxford on Thursday and Southampton on Friday, before others on the Continent and back here through to the end of October. Full details on the band’s website HERE.
Categories: Live review