Tim Whitehead plays Wayne Shorter at The Farncombe Cavern, Godalming, Surrey

Tim Whitehead with Liam Noble.
Scarborough Jazz 2010. Photo Credit and ©William Ellis
All Rights Reserved

Tim Whitehead plays Wayne Shorter
(The Farncombe Cavern, Godalming, Surrey. 12th February 2014. Review by Sarah Chaplin)

Having had a busy year building on his work as musician-in-residence for Tate Britain, touring a new interactive show for children endearingly entitled Centrally Heated Knickers with Michael Rosen, as well as writing the score for an ambitious new contemporary dance piece called Strung Out, composer and saxophonist Tim Whitehead was on fire last night.

Whitehead was appearing with John Turville on piano and Winston Clifford on drums at bassist Marianne Windham’s monthly jazz night at this hidden gem of a cultural outpost - the Farncombe Cavern - playing a wonderful set of mostly Wayne Shorter tunes.

As a participant in Tim’s excellent workshop which preceded the gig, I was particularly keen to hear his interpretation of the tunes we’d worked on – Beauty and the Beast, with its burning funk groove and Ana Maria with its hauntingly original melody built around a fairly bewildering set of chords (or so it seems to a relative novice like me). Both were delivered with guts and passion, among a host of other tunes that Whitehead had picked out as his personal favourites.

It’s always fascinating to watch how four accomplished jazz musicians who’ve not played together before as a quartet let alone rehearsed the set, can perform so ridiculously well, riding the knife edge of quirky ad hoc intros and outros, goading each other to shift pace and feel in their solos, sharing their ideas through their instruments. Tonight was a great example of just that – Clifford moving between sticks, brushes and hands and even happily singing along for some numbers, Turville tugging artfully at the time feel and bristling with vivid lines, and Whitehead playing not just his signature tenor sax on the set, but also digging out his soprano and then an ancient and brooding bass clarinet for She Moves Through the Fair, which he segued into his own arrangement of folk tune Lovely Joan.

Whitehead had also picked out a lovely Keith Jarrett number to play – Memories of Tomorrow, a simple melody with plenty of scope for the musicians to stretch out. Other treats included Whitehead’s transcription of Shorter’s magestic tune Serenata, and the wonderfully dissonant Angola. As a improviser, Whitehead is consistently inventive; he spells out his argument in beautifully paced phrases, elegantly intensifying each chorus in terms of dynamics, tone and even body language, as he sensitively searches out the inner core of each tune. Right at the end, having focused most of his set around Shorter’s wonderful 1975 album Native Dancer and his 2003 comeback album Alegria, Whitehead pushed things into true fusion territory with their epic last number, when Turville put the keyboard into overdrive and the whole band completely rocked out with evident enthusiasm on Palladium, a tune from Weather Report’s Heavy Weather days.

Whilst growing her reputation as an intrepid and versatile bass player on the circuit, Marianne Windham has developed an impressive track record for getting stalwarts of the jazz world to wend their way down the A3 past Guildford for a mid-week riot of jazz – and packing the house every time with eager punters from Surrey, Hampshire and probably much further afield.

- Next Event: Steve Waterman will be celebrating Benny Golson on 12th March

- Marianne Windham wrote a feature for us about the 3rd anniversary

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