|From Nat's web site - too far back to get a pic last night|
I feel like I am running out of ways to vary but sustain the high praise for the Blue Vanguard Jazz Club house band of Craig Milverton – Keys, Al Swainger – Bass, and Coach York – Drums, and their monthly guests – last night, vibraphone player Nat Steele – though simply excellent every time should suffice.
That said, never one to give up the search for a reviewer’s inroad/ruse: as a GCSE English Literature senior examiner I will be attending my standardising meeting imminently where we review and agree grades to set the standard for all examiners. It struck me that the band and guest last night, playing all jazz standards, undertake their own similar process – theirs the intuition of feel and expertise when getting together without rehearsals to play brilliantly as if a long-standing group, setting the highest standards of un-standardising the music in improvised solos and a tightness of interchange that is seamlessly superb.
Do you see what I did?
Like a freight train, was it?
Excellent every time it is then. And it was last night, again enjoyed by a full house. I will be honest in declaring I have never been a vibes fan in particular, for no clear reason, and lean to saxophone and horn as obvious instruments of choice, but Nat Steele quite genuinely introduced me to its merits, perhaps a mellower though nonetheless lively instrument, especially played in his talented hands. Though that talent was quite enough to convince, it helped that he came across as such a warm and humble person, clearly steeped in jazz knowledge and appreciation, not least his deep love of jazz standards and the finesse with which he brings his vibes to interpret this.
Those standards were [most, but I didn’t get all] and played in this order: April in Paris, Vernon Duke; It’s You or No One, Cahn/Styne; No One Else But Me, Jerome Kerne [‘all the harmonic tricks’]; Stablemates, Benny Golson [read my Golson reviews here]; Autumn in New York, Vernon Duke, a sweet ballad; Poor Butterfly, Raymond Hubbell; Bird Feathers, Charlie Parker; Woody ‘N’ You, Dizzy Gillespie; The Cylinder, Milt Jackson, a beautiful bluesy vibes number with descending notes, and So Do It, Wes Montgomery.
Because of Nat’s fine playing, and as a closing aside, I am as I write listening to Sandra’s Blues by Milt Jackson playing with Coleman Hawkins, swung to the beauty of the vibraphone and furthering my jazz educations so ably and entertainingly delivered each month at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club.