REVIEW: Matt Telfer Quintet at Pizza Express Dean Street

Matt Telfer
Matt Telfer Quintet
(Pizza Express, Dean Street. 12th August 2014.Review by Sarah Chaplin)

Energetic front man and jazz jam host, tenor saxophonist Matt Telfer put together a strong line-up last night to play a selection of Wayne Shorter tunes from the Blue Note era.

Shorter’s tunes still sound so fresh and new half a century later, and it was with evident enjoyment that Telfer tucked into this feast of characteristically modal and non-diatonically inspired creations. We had Armageddon, which Shorter considered the focal point of his album Night Dreamer, Witch Craft with its two bars of heart-stopping silence mid form, then the amazing tune he wrote for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Lester Left Town. Telfer concluded the first set on soprano with a beautiful rendition of Ana Maria, the haunting tune Shorter wrote in memory of his wife who died in 1996 aboard the TWA800 plane crash while en route to see Shorter play in Italy.

There’s something very unassuming and almost apologetic about Telfer’s style of playing, but if his own Shorter-inspired composition Newark Flash is anything to go by, he’s not only a good musician, he’s also a talented writer. He projects great empathy with every piece, whether playing the tune itself or in his improvisational commentary, communicating the inherent wit or emotional appeal of each piece with verve and precision. This same attitude to the material was also shown by the rest of the band: Chris Jerome on piano produced some memorable solos despite being jetlagged from his long-haul flight home earlier in the day' Ben Bastin on bass created a wonderfully tight and inventive backdrop, and drummer Saleem Raman was strikingly dynamic yet laid back. On the front line, Andy Davies was on fiery good form on both trumpet and flugelhorn, as was Fliss Gorst, whose solos were full of gorgeous phrases.

By the time they got to Footprints, their last number of the evening, the audience was baying for more, proving to me at least that we’re always short of a bit of Shorter.

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