Review: Julian Siegel Quartet at the 2014 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Julian Siegel, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2014
 Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk . All Rights Reserved

Julian Siegel Quartet
(Playhouse Theatre, Cheltenham. Cheltenham Jazz Festival. 2 May 2014. Review by Jon Turney)

Cheltenham’s festival offers a regular blend of crowd-pleasers and state-of-the-art jazz. Best of all, they sometimes coincide. The first state of the art exhibit of the weekend, Julian Siegel’s quartet, certainly pleased a capacity crowd, though in the small-but-lovely Playhouse Theatre rather than the cavernous Big Top that looms over Montpellier Gardens.

The line-up that recorded the brilliant Urban Theme Park in 2010, Siegel on multiple reeds, long-time partner Liam Noble on piano and synth, Siegel’s Partisans band mate Gene Calderazzo on drums and Oli Hayhurst on bass, tore into the CD’s headlong opener, Six Four as if ninety minutes would not be long enough. There is an eagerness and appetite about this band that grips the attention – and if the drums tended to overwhelm on this first piece, as so often happens, Calderazzo’s restless, rolling river on all the others was irrestistible.

The rest took in others familiar from the recording: the dramatic ballad Heart Song displaying Siegel’s beautiful clarinet tone; One for JT (John Taylor) offering a fabulous two-handed piano solo from Noble. Siegel leans toward Joe Henderson on Cedar Walton’s Fantasy in D , the band here, to my ear, tapping into the energy of McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy, one of the late saxophone player’s early triumphs.

Then there were new pieces, for a planned new recording. Hero to a UFO brought out the bass clarinet for a sort of edgy romp, a piece that may or may not end up being titled Hair has a nice, funky lope, and The Claw had Noble’s synth delivering some retro Radiophonics Workshop sounds in proper horror movie style before the band dug in again.

Liam Noble, Julian Siegel, Oli Hayhurst, Gene Calderazzo
Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2014
 Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk . All Rights Reserved

The new material confirms this band are a superb vehicle for Siegel’s varied and adventurous compositions. These are four great players at the top of their game, and the result was unequivocally state-of-the-art. You can hear for yourself in London tonight.

The Julian Siegel Quartet are at King’s Place tonight, May 3rd, at 8.00  and their tour then includes Swansea, Sheffield, Brighton and Dorking.

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