Review: Jay Azzolina



Jay Azzolina
(Pizza Express Dean Street, June 3rd 2011. Review by Frank Griffith)


BACKGROUND TO THIS REVIEW (Ed)

Superb New York guitarist Jay Azzolina blew into Soho for a two-night engagement, accompanied by the internationally recognised rhythm battery of Laurence Cottle on bass, and pianist/drummer, Gary Husband. The sets consisted of an equally balanced mixture of Azzolina originals, 1960s rock classics and jazz standards, such as Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way.

Azzolina is the consummate performer: while his chosen instrument is the guitar, his personal and unique voice would be equally distinctive on anything that he should have decided to hold and resonate with. His tone, his attack and melodic delivery are on the highest level. His language embraces the contemporary side of jazz but he manifestly respects and owns the entire, seventy-year history of the electric guitar.

Never falling victim to flashy virtuosity, he makes every note he plays count- each one is a rich and shiny pearl of sound enriching to the ear.

Highlights included twoo waltzes: the opener Vera Cocha, brisk and funky, and Her First Waltz (dedicated to his now 21 one year old daughter) which sported a slowish but lush melody, with a harmonic sequence to match. This fully brought out by Gary Husband’s piano accompaniment in the opening sections, after which he tiptoed across the stage with the lightness of a cat burglar to finish the tune off on drums. Does Gary Husband get a single fee for this, or the double one he deserves?

Jay’s takes (based loosely on John Scofield’s recent recordings) of The House Of The Rising Sun and Satisfaction provided some familiar sounding material with an updated and much more improvised edge to it. Particularly noteworthy on House was Cottle’s bass solo which was not short on technical finesse but also equally riveting in his clearly elocuted melodic fluidity. Fans of this world-class Welshman will always take delight in his sense of humour that permeates his distinctive soloing.

There was also a completely unscheduled guest appearance by a clarinet-playing member of the audience which included renditions of Summertime and Charlie Parker’s Scrapple for the Apple. The trio acquitted themselves to this with the highest degree of professionality and musicality- resulting in giving these two jazz chestnuts a renewed and refreshing sparkle.

Special plaudits go to the renowned guitarist/composer and longtime friend of Jay’s, Dr Richard Niles, who not only organised this engagement, supplied an amplifier but compered the evening. All in a day’s work to support his old mucker and classmate from Berklee School of Music in Boston.

Now that we have had a brief taster of this great artist, let us please have him back soon. He (and we) were only just getting warmed up.

Dr Richard Niles' interview with Jay Azzolina for LondonJazz

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