Gareth Lockrane Big Band: sleaze for all the family

What’s JazzJanuary?

JazzJanuary performance #2

Gareth Lockrane Big Band

606 Club, London, 10th January

JazzJanuary testers: Evie (6), Oliver (8), Sophie (9), Charlie, Emma, Matt B, Matt P (older)

JazzJanuary adviser: Karen (music teacher)

It’s a bit unsettling. “Who wants some more sleazy funk?” shouts an excited band leader to his audience.  Next to you, a 6-year-old voice replies: “Me!”

Gareth Lockrane isn’t short of sleaze.  He has more flutes than a Tory MP has mistresses, and he switches between them in the same way.  There’s usually one on the go, another lined up close by and a couple more just out of sight, waiting their turn for a breathy encounter.

This is a big band with a twist. Not so long ago, it seems, the flute wasn’t really a jazz instrument. There might have been the odd one here and there, but a band leader brazenly flashing four of them around? Unheard of.

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Yes, that’s a bass flute

It’s Sunday lunchtime here at the 606 Club in Chelsea, and our group of jazz-testers includes a trio of under-tens.  We’re in another underground venue.  It’s warm and friendly inside, but unlike Ronnie Scott’s, this place has the kind of entrance door you could walk straight past.  You reach through a mesh grille and press a buzzer to be allowed down the stairs. The Jazz-people complain about being stereotyped as remote and secretive, but so far, we’ve not seen any of of them above ground level.

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Jazz-tester Evie

The band – hailed as ‘ferocious’ and ‘unruly’ by the critics – certainly packs a punch.  This is exciting, accessible, original music, dished out at a crackling pace.  The first set ends with ‘The Strut‘, an instant, universal hit among the jazz-testers and with today’s Jazz-adviser, Karen.  In truth, her judgement might have crumbled. Her principal instrument at university was the flute, and as flute-demonstrations go, this would take some beating.

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The alto flute also saw some action

 

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The Jazz-testers: happy campers

The stream of colourful music about The X-Men and surfing keeps flowing after a break for lunch.  And there’s something else going on, too.  It’s a standard thing, apparently, for band leaders to give their best players a chance to stand up alone and do their stuff, supported only by the rhythm section. But Gareth Lockrane is making a very thorough job of this.  He has hand-picked these 18 musicians, presumably without committees, governors, or audition panels.  He wants to make sure that before we leave, we know precisely what they’re capable of.

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Methodically, he works his way around the players, pointing with flutes, allocating solos.  You’re still enjoying the band.  But you’re also being treated to a series of mini-masterclasses in instruments from guitar to flugelhorn.  Bass trombone and saxophones make the biggest impression on the jazz-testers.  Drummer Tristan Maillot somehow infuses a fluid, elegant, loose-limbed style with a feral bite. And he’s doing tricksy little things with time that can’t be explained (at least, not here) but are thrilling to listen to.

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The Gareth Lockrane band scored a direct hit on this jazz-tester

The band’s newest member – so new that he’s still wearing his parka – takes the last, extended, solo on saxophone. The face is familiar: he played in the Royal Academy Big Band in November, and with NYJO a few days ago. Twenty-odd, Jim Gold already has a musical CV as long as a microphone cable. Even to mere jazz-testers, it’s obvious these people are stars of jazz music in London, and this band gives them room to shine.

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The Jazz-people communicate: Jim Gold, “our newest band member” (right) enjoys a solo from Tom Barford “our powerhouse on tenor sax” (left)

 

Highs:

(1) Gareth Lockrane and his four flutes.  Bass trombone (Trevor Mires), flugelhorn (Tom Walsh).  Read the lists of artists they’ve recorded with, and you’ll realise that you’ve probably heard them quite a lot already.

(2) The 606 Club – friendly, good production.  (And lunch. Have you ever, mid-show, tried asking for a Sunday roast in the O2?)

 

Lows:

None reported.

 

Verdict:

Evie (Jazz-tester, 6, who thought the band lived in the 606 Club as a permanent, self-sufficient community): Please can we come back tomorrow and listen to the Jazz-people again?

Oliver (Jazz-tester, 8. No reaction for an hour after the performance, but enrolled in his school music club the following day):  My favourite was the last bit before the break.  I want to go again.

Karen (Jazz-adviser): Exhilarating, unpredictable and a sonorous delight.  A real joy to hear the flute in ways so foreign to the genre – from piccolo to bass, each was unique in its blend with other timbres and was a revelation.

Next up:

Ronnie Scott’s Blues Explosion, 10th January (evening)

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Story and photos: Matt Pannell

 

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One comment

  1. mooreismore · April 5, 2016

    Thanks for this incredibly entertaining review! Glad you all enjoyed the gig, even the sleazy bits.
    All the best,
    Gareth Lockrane.

    Like

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