Review: Fapy Lafertin Group with Bob Wilber. Int. Wimbledon Music Festival

Left to Right: Fapy Lafertin, Andy Crowdy, Dave Kelbie,
Andy Aitchison, Bob Wilber. Wimbledon, 23rd November 2012


Fapy Lafertin Group with Bob Wilber
(Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, Part of International Wimbledon Music Festival. 23rd November 2012. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The predominantly classical International Wimbledon Music Festival is in its fourth year and starts to feel like an established part of the scene. The festival's forays into the historic end of jazz have been unusual and very worthwhile: in 2011 IWMF featured Claude Bolling whom we interviewed, and who vaunted his particular connection with tennis and Wimbledon. This year an unusual collaboration took place, between Fapy Lafertin on guitar with his English group,  and guest Bob Wilber instigated by festival supporter Maggie Black. Tcha Limberger was featured on all the advance publicity as appearing too, but didn't. (Uh?).

Fapy Lafertin's guitar playing completely, constantly commands the attention. Guitar heroes come in many forms, but Lafertin is one, without doubt. My scribbled notes on last night's concert mainly consist of a list of the times he managed to add yet another surprising feature to his game. As soloist he takes so many unexpected turns, you soon forget that that this music harmonically often seems to have one foot nailed to the floor. The sheer range of tone colour and articulation that he can bring to music make you look up and check if another guitarist hasn't suddenly turned up. Silences create anticipation of what new direction he will take. In the supporting role he creates  an infinite variety of counter-melodies, cross-currents and commentaries, the soloist always has something to respond to. One I caught was a passionate counter-melody in tenor register in the first number of the second set, the perfect foil for Andy Aitchison's delicate violin solo up there in soprano. Fluency and expression are just everywhere. He can also change the mood of the band in a flash by inserting either stab chords or fast or accelerating  tremolando. It would be wonderful to hear him at closer quarters next time he appears at the London's home of Gypsy jazz, the Quecumbar in Battersea.

With such a protean force around, the others in Lafertin's group play supporting roles. For some people I know, last night will have been their version of jazz heaven:  only one bass solo all evening (well-taken by Andy Crowdy, deft harmonics) and no drummer present. Rhythm duties were assured by Dave Kelbie, quietly, supportively taking care of business.

 Guest Bob Wilber  left it right until the very end - till after the MC had told him and the band that chucking-out time had already past  -  to give us his trademark of old, the dizzyfingers clarinet playing of Wequassett Wail. But he had given some fine moments, notably Stardust on straight soprano, an instrument which Wilber studied way back when he was the  disciple and favoured pupil of Sidney Bechet.

There was also a wonderful bit of jazz generosity from Wilber towards Lafertin. In mid-number in Poor Butterfly the American tucked the clarinet under his arm in  to join in the audience applause for a particularly mesmerising solo. When an easy walk tempo loses all associations with the pedestrian, it is necessary, even imperative to salute genius.    

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