Review: Adam Waldmann at Spires Jazz Club

Adam Waldmann
(Spires Jazz Club. Oxford. 23rd September 2013. Review by Alyn Shipton)

Another decade, and another Pizza Express Jazz Club. This time, the initiative lies not with the restaurant chain but with guitarist Adam Taylor, who is boldly trying to set up a regular central Oxford jazz club on Monday nights. The setting is a downstairs room with big Georgian windows and oak panelling in the local branch of the restaurant chain, located in a courtyard squeezed alongside the busy Cornmarket pedestrian area. The first ever session in the club welcomed back local boy, saxophonist Adam Waldmann, to front a quartet in what seemed comfortably like someone’s front room.

Away from the particular aesthetic of his Kairos 4tet, Waldmann shone, his sinuous soprano and delicate tenor sax playing alternating from one number to the next, so that his abrasive, edgy soprano sound dominated on his own “Hymn for Her” whilst his deft ballad playing on tenor made Monk’s “Ask Me Now” an intense personal statement. As the evening went on, and the band settled, both aspects of his sound developed, so that the soprano workouts got livelier and involved the rest of the band more fully, while the ballads (culminating in Waldmann’s own “Unresolved”) got more tender.

Most remarkably, this band of twenty-somethings (Tom Wheatley on bass and Jay Davis on drums completing the lineup) played with a maturity beyond their years. If Taylor felt the band was crashing about a bit too much for him to solo, he waited for calm, and then launched into his outing when the backing was just right. Waldmann never seemed to dominate, but asserted his musical presence through calm authority.

If this set is the yardstick, then the club will be a welcome addition to the local scene, not too far from London to prevent fans from coming, and an excellent complement to the long-running Thursday night Spin jazz club, or the more eclectic fare on offer one Tuesday each month at the splendid Albion Beatnik bookshop. For a town that has always had less live jazz on offer than seems appropriate for the potential audience from town and gown combined, suddenly Oxford’s jazz scene is rivalling its recent predominance in the world of rock.

Forthcoming guests:
30th Sept: Tori Freestone
7th Oct:Harry Pope
21st Oct: Martin Speake.

More information HERE

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