I don’t always do this, but before seeing trumpeter Steve Waterman at the Blue Vanguard last night I did listen to some of his work, the avant-garde Narcéte and orchestral October Arrival.
In the former, Waterman accompanies Italian poet Erika Dagnino, who performs in English; Italian violinist Stefano Pastor, and fellow countryman George Haslam on saxophone. The often punchy and no doubt significantly improvised interplay between horn, sax and violin is lively and disruptive so a [welcome to me] challenge as a listen; the spoken word element provided by Dagnino adds to the overall experimental sound and feel.
October Arrival is on another area of the musical spectrum – and I mention these two albums precisely for a point about the breadth and interest of Waterman’s playing, involved heavily in big bands too – the title track a beautiful paean to autumn and horn-lyricism, written by Waterman and played with his jazz orchestra. It was also his penultimate song at last night’s gig, a sweet ballad on sweet flugelhorn.
I’m never good at remembering all the songs/standards played at a Blue Vanguard gig, though I sometimes take a notepad and pen. I was without such support – that is apart from my gig buddies who, like me, always hugely enjoy the BV jazz experience – but I do recall the second song played was by Freddie Hubbard, and Waterman was on flugelhorn again for that: it is such a pure tone, as instrument and in the finesse of his playing. You could call it the silky slither of a snake [that’s an ‘in’ joke, by the way].
My favourite of the night that gives me a chance, as ever, to celebrate the Blue Vanguard Trio was Miles Davis’ All Blues. Wow, what a stormer this was! Coach York on drums delivered beats that pulsed and sailed and soared; Al Swainger on upright bass caressed and plucked such sublime rounds, including chords, and always those bended/blended notes, and Craig Milverton on keys produced his familiar bristling runs but also trademark chord sequences that mesmerise in their shifting tones and timings. Steve Waterman played with speed and sensitivity, a combination that informed the whole wonderful evening at Exeter and Devon’s premier jazz venue.