Monday 19 April 2010

Bobby Wellins with the Terry Seabrook Trio featuring Spike Wells & Dan Sheppard, The Brunswick, 18 April

Introducing the first set tenor player Bobby Wellins explained that he hadn't played in a while before delivering a blistering set of Thelonius Monk classics, segueing from Straight No Chaser to In Walked Bud to Monk's Mood and on though tunes such as Little Rootie Tootie and Blue Monk. In all, almost an hour of non-stop jazz.

There's something about Monk's tunes that encourages improvisers to take on Monkish qualities - thoughtful, surprising phrases, large intervals, dissonance. They all steered away from the obvious notes - Bobby Wellins never loses his fantastic sense of swing, pianist Terry Seabrook releasing a tumult of ideas, bassist Dan Sheppard developing interesting melodic ideas and drummer Spike Wells throwing in rich, complex rhythmic patterns. Collectively Bobby rightly referred to the band as "great improvisers".

The second set kicked off with My Funny Valentine as a waltz, moving to Green Dolphin Street and Mad About the Boy (according to Bobby, written for Douglas Fairbanks Junior by Noel Coward). One of my favourite tunes of the evening was the ballad It Never Entered My Mind, a song of solitude and regret played from the back of the stage, sans mic, by Bobby, with the acoustic sound of the sax reflecting the fragility of the lyric ("And once you told me I was mistaken/That I'd awaken with the sun/And order orange juice for one/It never entered my mind"). He also did a great, upbeat version of Neil Hefti's theme from Neil Simon's The Odd Couple with Walter Matthau as Oscar & Jack Lemon as Felix (Oscar: I know him. He'll kill himself just to spite me. Then his ghost will come back, following me around the apartment, haunting and cleaning, haunting and cleaning, haunting and cleaning...).

From the photo you'll see that I had no view of the drums. I did however have the delightful sight of Bobby and Terry looking on at Spike as he delivered another knock-out solo, a look that I can only describe as pleasure mixed with pride mixed with the anticipation of more pleasant surprises to come.

It was a great gig ending with Bobby graciously thanking the audience for turning up to watch the boys "fight the good fight". What's more, it was free!

Just one negative - the use of the PA. Why would you want to chuck the bass, piano and sax through PA  speakers in such as small venue? My experience of The Brunswick and similar venues is to get the sound guy to make minimal us if the PA for essentials such as voice, horns and piano if required. Musicians of this calibre can find their own balance and no one turns up to a gig like this expecting to be shouted at.

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