Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

For the past 18 months, Geoff Gascoyne’s well-rounded bass has been embedded in the jazz-tinged frolics of the Jamie Cullum trio, and he has long mixed work at the quality end of popular music with a steady stream of heavyweight jazz gigs. His current album, Keep it to Yourself, also keeps one foot in the popular camp, mixing guest vocalists into a set of mainstream jazz instrumentals, but at this gig Gascoyne stuck to a strictly jazz script.

Gascoyne’s jazz is strongly flavoured by the modern jazz of the late 1950s. A steady swing-based rhythm section supports a trumpet and saxophone front line, with tightly argued arrangements acting as launching pads for a succession of solos. The basic format is given added spice by well-worked changes in tempo, brief unaccompanied brass passages to link solos and the introduction of Latin rhythms. The first set’s opener, Lee Morgan’s “Raggedy Ann”, is typical of the genre. A catchy, hi-hat-driven latin-soul theme yields to solos on an up-tempo blues, each solo switching to a slinky half-tempo at the end.

Not surprisingly for a musician used to the demands of commercial music, the band were impressively well-drilled and the arrangements really connected with the audience. Trumpeter Martin Shaw’s focused tone blended well with the understated muscularity of tenor saxophonist Steve Kaldestad, and pianist Tom Cawley added some florid piano work. The slower numbers in the first set worked less well, with “Spring is Here” sounding uncomfortably like Cawley practising his flashy bits next door to a sombre brass section.

Although rooted in the late 1950s, Gascoyne’s band is not a simple revival, and there are lots of interesting and imaginative twists to established practices – Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple from the Apple” played in a tricky five-four, a bar subtly missing from a standard sequence. Gascoyne and drummer Sebastiaan De Krom drive the band well, and the finale, a rousing “Frankie and Johnny”, capped an entertaining evening of well-worked, audience-friendly jazz in the modern mainstream.

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