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| DON INNES 1928 - 2015
Veteran pianist and arranger Don Innes passed away a couple of weeks ago following a short illness.
Originally from Aberdeen, Don played with many of this country’s top bands including George Evans, The Squadronaires, Billy Ternent and Cyril Stapleton. His arrangements were much sought after and recorded by the likes of Ted Heath and The BBC Radio Orchestra ( of which he was a member for a number of years ).
Don was also a founder member of the Echoes of Ellington Orchestra in 1994. He was highly respected and liked in the music business and a very modest and gentle man who will be missed by many of all ages.
Don never learned to drive so, living near me, I would often take him to “Echoes" gigs and enjoyed picking his brains about his touring days. It was on one of these trips that he confirmed to me the legendary story of, when he was a very busy studio musician in the 1960s, he once walked into the studio at Abbey Road and was confronted by a piano CONCERTO with a full orchestra sitting there patiently. Don being a man of few words simply got on with the job and sight-read the piece. It was only when some famous Russian concert pianist arrived that Don realised he was in the wrong studio!
Don often played with my big band when it first started and I am honoured to be able to play those marvellous arrangements of his that he gave me.
Gabriel Garrick - Trumpet /Flugelhorm leading
Trumpets; Matt Winch, Andy Gibson, Giles Straw & Trevor Walker
Trombones; Nick Mills, Andy Watson & Dave Eaglestone
Saxes; Dave Shulman, Tony Woods, Sam Walker, Damian Cook & Bob McKay
Guitar Martin Kolarides, Bass Joe Pettit, Drums Alan Jackson, Piano Will Bartlet
Vocal Nette Robinson
The Music First Set 1. April in Paris (Basie version) 2. First Born (Michael Garrick 3. Blind faith (Michael Garrick 4. Blue Serge (Ellington) 5. Tempo (Joe Harriott arr MG) 6. Aria for Mary Magdalene (Michael Garrick 7. Webster's Mood (Michael Garrick) 8. Concerto for Cootie (Ellington) Second Set 1. Showtime (Michael Garrick 2. Night Time (Michael Garrick) 3. Sacre Supreme (Ellington) 4. Two Trumpets (Michael Garrick 5. Little Poem (Joe Harriott arr. Michael Garrick) 6. Boogie Blues (Krupa)The Gig
Gabriel, as in his previous visit to the Gunnersbury, selected a programme of his father Michael Garrick's compositions, a generous helping of charts from the Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn repertoire and a few from other sources. His band included some of the best jazz musicians in the UK who produced some wonderful orchestral playing and many excellent solo contributions and we were fortunate to hear a very tasteful vocal contribution from Nette Robinson.
First Set; Given his time again Gabriel would not have started this concert with the famous Count Basie war horse "April in Paris". This number needs a lot of rehearsal for the band to inject the necessary drive and precision needed to make this oft played arrangement work and this luxury was not available to the band. This plus the usual nervous tension that can affect any opening number contributed to a performance that was below the standard that this band is capable of. Remembering that for every journey you have to start somewhere I resisted the temptation to interject "Oh no, not again!" in response to the famous Basie injunction to repeat the last chorus "One more time!".
Courageously "First Born" a complex Latin-American tinged composition by Michael Garrick was selected to follow our "away day" in Paris, providing evidence that we would experience some of the more exciting sounds that Gabriel's father Michael created and some good jazz with Matt Winch contributing a flighty, imaginative flugelhorn solo. Next a restful, impressionistic Garrick lullaby "Blnd Faith" which was composed as a "thank you" to Gabriel for his loving care during his father's convalescence after a serious operation This finely orchestrated piece allowed the band to demonstrate that it could play sotto voce beautifully if and when required to do so. A tenor solo breathed into the instrument by Damian Cook and some atmospheric flugelhorn playing by Matt Winch were featured with some lovely sounds from the band resting on Bob MacKay's bass clarinet and the delicate playing of the rhythm section with Martin Kolarides on Guitar and Will Bartlett on piano adding a some tasteful touches of their own.
From one atmospheric composition to another; "Blue Serge", Mercer Ellington's composition for the famous 1941 Ellington band had the prowling power of Duke Ellington's earlier work in the Cotton Club. It generated some excellent playing by the band and superb solos from Andy Gibson on flugelhorn, Nick Mills on plunger muted trombone and Damian Cook on tenor. Will Bartlett's colourful piano playing helped to capture the essence of the original Ellington masterpiece.
Having created a rapport with lovers of classic big band charts Gabriel chose to do what his father and his friend Joe Harriott sometimes did, throw everything up in the air just to see what happens. by electing to play "Tempo" one his father's arrangements of Joe's "free form" compositions. In this composition an "in-time" introduction is allowed until the band is set free to play without the restriction of time signatures or keys. The band returns later although how much later is presumably left to the bandleader. This sort of playtime period for musicians can have a rejuvenating effect on the participants on their return to the dictatorship of tempos, counting and tonality but I found it difficult to evaluate individual or collective musical contributions without any tonal or rhythmic context to refer to but maybe this is the iconoclastic point of the exercise. At least one other person, my good friend David said that he really enjoyed it.
Gabriel's plaintive rendition of father Michael Garrick's "Aria for Mary Magdalene" was, I must admit, made more attractive because it contrasted so dramatically with "Tempo". Gabriel played some ravishing flugelhorn, Tony Woods essayed a delightful soprano solo and the band produced mellow sounds to colour the back ground with Bob MacKay's bass clarinet and delicate playing by the rhythm section providing additional depth.
The range of Michal Garrick's creative talents was well illustrated by the journey from impressionistic orchestral colours in the Aria to the raw blues of "Webster's Mood" This also introduced us to the vocal talents of Nette Robinson, whose style is all her own, bred from the intimate jazz style of Billie Holiday with elements of the breathy sound of Peggy Lee or Blossom Dearie and the clear toned diction of Cleo Laine it added a cool dimension to some really earthy blues playing by the band. Sam Walker on tenor, Dave Shulman on alto sax, Andy Watson on trombone, Andy Gibson on flugelhorn and Michael Kolarides on guitar roared eagerly into a series of excellent blues solos. The "Tempo" effect was obviously working.
Duke Ellington's "Concerto for Cootie" was faithfully recreated with Gabriel producing a tour-de force of trumpet playing that captured the essence of the Cootie Williams original superbly and the band produced a masterful reading of Duke's original score. This was a high spot for lovers of Duke Ellington's music.
Second Set; Showtime (Michael Garrick) A soft shoe shuffle dedicated to tap dancer Will Gaines started off softly with some neat brushwork from Alan Jackson then dashed off at some speed. A Parkerish alto solo, followed by some brash trumpet and a few bars of tenor playing emerged before an unexpectedly brief conclusion. "Night Time" (Michael Garrick) had a slow nicely atmospheric introduction with short tasteful alto and trumpet contributions then a slightly faster tempo section featuring Gabriel briefly before returning to a slow, after hours finale with Bob MacKay's baritone pleasantly prominent.
"Sacre Supreme" was a fast Billy Strayhorn composition with complex, contrasting writing for brass and reed sections that was dtriven by some good playing by the rhythm section. Andy Gibson blazed away on trumpet. Miches Garrick's "Two Trumpets" had many of the characteristics of "Sacre Supreme" showing how the Ellington influence permeated his music. Some nice writing for the band had Bob McKay's sonorous baritone filling out the sound of the saxophone section with sharp work from the trumpet section moving things along at a brisk pace. The trumpets of Matt Winch and Andy Gibson floated along together and apart against the sympathetic rhythm section.
"Little Poem" by Joe Harriot was about as far away from his "Free Form" music as you could get being a near clone of "Li'l Darlin" Neal Hefti's stealthy, controlled, bluesy walk written for the classic Basie band of the late 50's. The band tip-toed carefully through the composition with elegant flugelhorn playing by Matt Winch and some sophisticated guitar from Martin Kolarides.
The basic blues structure of Gene Krupa's "Boogie Blues" allowed the band to navigate through familiar territory encouraging a shouting solo from Nick Mills on trombone, a feverish exciting, Jam- Session Baritone excursion developed from a relaxed start by Bob McKay and an equally competitive, flying Trevor Walker trumpet solo. Gabriel sang a historically correct but politically incorrect band leader's vocal chorus before the band signed off brightly hoping that no-one would notice.
Trombones; Mark Nightingale, Ian Bateman, Winston Rollins, Adrian Fry
Bass Trombone; Chris Gower
Rhythm Section; Piano – John Pearce, Bass – Jerome Davies, Drums - Pete Cater
1st Half 2nd Half 1 The Sunny Side of the Street 1 Walkin’ 2 The Moon Was Yellow 2 Say It 3 Cute 3 The Groove Merchant 4 Lament 4 HRH 5 Pink Panther Theme 5 Rebel Rousers 6 At the End of a Love Affair 6 Star Dust 7 9.20 Special 7 Indian summer 8 Blanket of Blues 8 Breezin’ Along With the Breeze 9 If I should Lose You 9 Whistle While You Work 10 King Porter Stomp 10 HomeThe Gig
Trombone players must be a gregarious lot, not content simply to sit in amongst the mass ranks of a band or orchestra they are inclined, when free to do so, to create groups of their own. Being equable, rounded fellows they seem to avoid the pitfalls of being competitive like trumpeters or vaguely anarchistic like reed players (baritone players excepted) they just get together, get organised and play. So it seems anyway on the evidence presented by “The Bone Supremacy “which is composed of five of the most talented players in the UK and a tasteful and versatile rhythm section. Their repertoire is gleaned from compositions and arrangements by of for heroes of the trombone world such as Jay Jay Johnson, Kai winding and Frank Rosolino, jazz standards from all periods, original items by band members and “The Pink Panther” (see below). What makes the group special, in addition to their technical and musical ability, is the inspirational joint leadership of Adrian Fry and Ian Bateman and Adrian’s superb arrangements and transcriptions.
Mike Gorman’s reharmonisation of “The Sunny Side of the Street” (unintentionally ironic given the wet and windy weather) kicked things off at a relaxed walking pace with a good solo coming from a cold start by Ian and some nice piano from John Pearce.
Some of the many harmonious sounds that five trombones can make were revealed in Adrian's splendidly romantic Latin American arrangement of “The Moon Was Yellow”. John Pearce developed a tasteful, melodic piano solo and some exciting solo trombone work by Mark kept the standard of performance high.
The famous Count Basie drum feature “Cute” allowed Pete Cater to show off his skills with brushes and sticks, Mark Nightingale to essay a relaxed solo and the band to demonstrate some nice controlled playing.
A sad, slow J. J .Johnson composition “Lament” in an interesting arrangement by Frank Griffith featured a late night, smoky bar solo by Winston Rollins some noirish sounds by the band and another nice piano solo by John Pearce. Unbelievably Winston, not having played with the band before, was sight-reading this and virtually every other score.
The atmosphere was lightened somewhat by Henry Mancini’s well known “Pink Panther Theme” played with a relaxed precision and a fine, fat sound with Chris Gower’s bass trombone underpinning it. Adrian’s brilliant arrangement stayed close to the classic original down to the slide to silence at the end. Solo honours went to Mark Nightingale. Ian Bateman’s smooth, stylish trombone playing and soloing ability was featured on a graceful arrangement of “At the End of a Love Affair” taken from a J. J. Johnson album with The Metropole Orchestra. In contrast Count Basie’s “9.20 Special” breezed along nicely propelled by Pete Cater’s incisive drumming, some Basie style piano from John Pearce and Winston's skilful solo work.
“Blanket of Blues”; an easy swinging arrangement that provided space for skilful solos by Mark Nightingale and Winston Rollins and for them to swap 8 bar choruses. John Pearce and Jerome Davies on piano and bass also contributed short, sweet solos. Mark Nightingale’s accomplished playing was featured on the ballad “If I should Lose You”, Adrian’s adaptation of a Dave Horler big band arrangement.
Everybody’s technical ability and precision was under examination in a super fast, intricate arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton’s “King Porter Stomp” complete with some neat rag-time piano flourishes and tail-gate trombone solos. After this a cool drink at the bar must have been very welcome.
A medium swing version of Miles Davis’ “Walkin’” helped the band to get back in the groove with a nice piano intro and solos from everybody apart from the bass and drums was followed by Adrian’s arrangement of “Say It” an up-tempo number by Vincent Nielsson from the repertoire of the Danish Radio Big Band that had some, neat self effacing drum work by Pete Cater and a slot for John Davies to demonstrate his skills on bass.
“Roy’s Blues“ by Roy Williams was, in keeping with the personality of its composer, a cheerful blues that gave some room for Mark Nightingale to hurry along in his solo space, his efforts being rewarded with an extra chorus. Ian Bateman supplied some nice bluesy sounds and John Pearce's piano solo provided a tasteful coda to Adrian’s arrangement.
Thad Jones’ soul influenced “Groove Merchant” was introduced to us by John Pearce who produced yet another fine piano solo. Adrian Fry’s muted trombone swung along to Pete Cater’s subdued marching drums and some neat playing before the ensemble closed the doors on this fine arrangement. “HRH”, variations on a theme that Thad Jones wrote for the 1958 Basie Band had a confident, controlled lead by Adrian, a bluesy solo from Ian and more good piano sounds and some crisp ensemble playing.
“Rebel Rouser” a Bob Florence composition for another collection of sociable trombonists The Great American Trombone Company led by Bobby Knight provided another sight reading and speed playing test that rocketed along with some brilliant ensemble playing, a superb Mark Nightingale solo and a rousing finale.
Adrian’s polyphonic arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael’s beautiful “Star Dust” complete with the verse provided a setting for some superb warm playing by Adrian Fry.
“Indian Summer” arranged by Trevor Vincent was by contrast a straightforward swinger. This was followed by a similarly up tempo “Breezing’ Along With the Breeze”. There were excellent solos by Winston, Mark and Adrian with the rhythm section pushing things along nicely.
Ian and Adrian shared the job of transcribing the Kai Winding Septet arrangement of “Whistle While You Work”. This performance was so good that an audience demonstration forced an encore of the band’s slow, romantic s signing-off tune “Home” that was so beautifully played that you could not ask for more. A suitable end to a packed and enjoyable programme then back to the wind and the rain.
Trumpet/Flugelhorn: Robbie Robson, Henry Lowther, Trombone -Mattias Eskilsson
Frank Griffith: Tenor & Clarinet, Matt Wates - Alto, John Bignall - Bari
Pete Whittaker - Electric Organ & Piano, Andy Ball -drums,Chris Fletcher -conga drums
1st Half 2nd Half 1. Moanin' 1. Work Song 2. Mambo Inn 2. Fuji Mama 3. Hard Times 3. Music to Watch 4. The Sidewinder 4. East of the Sun 5. Save Your Love 5. The Sampler 6. Listening in Colour 6. Viva TiradoThe Gig
Frank opted for a line up that was lighter numbers than most of the bands that attend Sunday service at the Gunnersbury but added weight to the ensemble sound by imaginative use of the resources at his disposal using his own arranging and compositional skills. "Nonorganic" basically comprised a sextet plus a percussive rhythm section, the bass part being covered by use of the electric organ/piano. Playing numbers with a strong rhythmic base that gave substance to the ensemble sound such as "Moanin", "The Sidewinder", "Work Song" and "The Sampler" while using Latin American rhythms to allow the drum and conga drum combination to shine in "Mambo Inn", "Listening in Colour",, "Fuji Mama", "Music to Watch" and "Viva Tirado" kept us listening to what was there and not trying to imagine a sound from what was not. Frank's tasteful arrangements of the slower tunes and ballads, "Hard Times", "Save Your Love for Me" and "East of the Sun", gave the soloists room to express themselves in more romantic or thoughtful harmonic settings.
Performances by the band members were uniformly excellent with some memorable highlights such as the feature numbers for Matt Wates ("Hard Times"), Mattias Eskilsson ("East of the Sun") and Pete Whittaker ("The Sampler") and I liked in particular;
Frank Griffith's clarinet playing in "Always" and "East of the Sun", his melodic solos in "Sidewinder" and, "Listening in Colour" and his round toned tenor in "Save Your Love" and just about everywhere else.
The contributions of the trumpet duo Henry Lowther and Robbie Robson are both worth listening to wherever they play and their individual and ensemble playing here was, as usual, outstanding. Robbie's playing in "The Sampler" and Henry's in "Save Your Love" were worth hearing to say the least.
In the unusual rhythm section. Andy Ball on drums supplied the necessary drive. Chris Fletcher on Conga Drums added an exciting extra dimension and, while I am not usually a fan of electronic anything, I found myself listening with pleasure to Peter Whitaker's organic contribution to the proceedings rather than needing another drink.
John Bignall's forceful baritone filled out the sound of the reed section well and Matt Wates' impeccable alto playing was as imaginative and inspirational as always.
All in all Frank Griffith and Nonorganic played superbly and provided those lucky enough to be present with a stimulating and entertaining afternoon of music.
Reeds – (Tenor & Soprano Sax, Clarinet, Piccolo and Various Flutes) - Stewart Curtis
Ben Cummings Trumpet & Flugelhorn, Guitar –Eran Kendler,
Keys - Graeme Taylor, Drums - Hans Ferrao, Bass Guitar - James Eager
1st Half 2nd Half The Lost Macaroon Song for Madeleine Some Day My Rabbi Will Come The Bulgar Bug South of Croydon Sex, Drugs and a Bacon Roll Jerusalem of Gold Made in Honk Kong You Never Told Me You Couldn't Cook Thomas the Tango Reggae Frailach The Dirty BagelsThe Gig
With the limited resources of a sextet to call on Stewart made the most of his own multi-instrumental skills and the musicianship of his versatile band to provide a varied programme. Every band member was given a generous allocation of solo time a jam-session element was introduced to the proceedings but the main elements linking the programme together were Stewart's delightful compositions and the Eastern and Eastern European influences that permeated them.
The difficulty of defining jazz is not helped by statements such as "it has to swing", ignoring the fact that it sometimes doesn't or "it is improvised" when, quite often, it isn't. The difficulty encountered when a band decides to play something that does not match these and many other preconditions derived from attempting a definition is compounded when that something includes notes not found in Western European music that is mainly restricted to using the 12 notes available on a piano and "regular" time signatures.
As can be seen from the titles above Stewart and K-Groove go hunting in the fertile fields of Eastern European and Middle Eastern music for their influences and their programme and Jazz and Klezmer music are the bases from which they set off. The rhythmic time-signatures common in these sources can add an extraordinary rhythmic impetus to the music and a brilliant base for improvisation which is, in turn, assisted by an additional pallet of notes, chords and "folk" scales. If "swing" means playing rhythmic patterns that encourage the listener to dance or clap in time, this band can swing in any time signature. The added lift given to "Someday My Rabbi Will Come" written in 3/4 time , South of Croydon, 5/4, "The Bulgar Boy" 7/8, 3/4 & 5/4 and a variety of tempo changes in other numbers provided clear evidence of this.
The whole programme was enjoyable but I particularly liked the strong melody of "Jerusalem the Gold" (a bit like the "Theme from Exodus" without the pomposity), "Some Day my Rabbi Will Come", which waltzed along in what Stewart termed a "a sort of Klezmer 3/4", Stewart's "Sex Drugs and a Bacon Roll" which featured a superb, powerful guitar solo from Eran Kendler, "Made in Honk Kong", a lovely floating tune fashioned to feature Graham on a cheap, locally made, flute amongst other things, "The Dirty Bagels , (evidently subtitled "Where the Mississippi meets the Mrs Goldberg ", provided a rousing "All hands on deck", finale which rocked along against a what might be called a "Bo Diddley Riff" as used by "The Crickets", the Everly Brothers and R&B based Rock bands from the 1950's on.
The Rhythm section provided sound support to the soloists and made some notable contributions themselves. Graeme Taylor's tasteful solo and section playing was evident in every number, Eran Kendler, in addition to soloing well, provided stylish guitar accompaniment, and Hans Ferrao made a creative and versatile contribution on bass ably accompanied by the drummer.
As for Graham himself he worked hard to produce a high standard of performance on every number playing soprano and tenor saxophones, piccolo, clarinet and flutes that I find it difficult to isolate particular solos. His solos were still forceful and imaginative on all instruments at the end of a long session. I remember best the warm toned tenor playing in the aforementioned "Jerusalem of Gold", his flute playing, (switching between flutes) in "Made in Honk Kong" and the quiet clarinet introduction to "Thomas the Tango Engine. He was ably assisted by A.N. Other on trumpet and flugelhorn who created some fine solos especially in "Sex Drugs and Bacon Roll" and "Made in Honk Kong.
"All in all an educational and enjoyable afternoon ", as we used to say before tearing up the cinema seats in the good old days.
Update 22nd February 2015
Photos © Chris Glass
Reviews by Victor Lawrance