Friday, 30 March 2018

Amy Roberts & Richard Exall at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club, Exeter, 29th March, 2018

All-Round Excellence

Another great, entertaining evening at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club – its jazz-injected monthly take-offs at The Gypsy Hill Hotel in Exeter, not that far from the airport.

I’m going to begin this review with a shout-out to the ‘house’ band who are actually a fundamental part of the programme, all guest/s on the bill seamlessly supported by this talented band of Craig Milverton – Keys; Al Swainger – Bass, and Coach York – Drums. At last night’s gig, Coach York had some stellar work-outs on a number of Latin-focused rhythms, and I loved the soloing of him framed by the alternating sax playing of Roberts and Exall, York punctuating their shifts with bursts of tight drum-riffs. Al Swainger is such a deft player, and his walks are always the coolest strides, some moments of bended notes quite exquisite. Craig Milverton is distinctive, and his solos are always on a par with whomever he and the band are playing, such dancing runs across the keys falling into glorious descending chords, and last night on Robin’s Nest, a delicate atonal solo that was hypnotic.

Amy Roberts and Richard Exall played a most entertaining set, and Roberts on flute reminded of what a great jazz instrument it can be. Both she and Exall played the clarinet, an instrument I don’t always like, but each gave it the sass [as well as finesses] needed to usurp my prejudices: their duet on, respectively, flute and clarinet playing Tico Tico was energy and skill personified. Exall has such a ‘feel’ to his playing, and much of the fluidity in his tone exemplifies this, as on Tenderly. He also produces plenty of sass in the instrument designed to anthropomorphise this, alto or tenor. I’m terrible at remembering song titles, but I did enjoy Art Pepper’s Popo for its spunk, Johnny Hodges’ Below the Azores where Roberts played beautiful flute layered with York’s rhythmic drums, and the Sir Charles Thomas and Illinois Jacquet Robin’s Nest.

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