ROUND-UP REVIEW: TW12 Jazz Festival

John Etheridge, TW12 Festival 2014
Photo Credit: Leo Appleyard

TW12 Jazz Festival
(Hampton Hill Playhouse, 3rd August 2014. Round-up by Sarah Chaplin)

For the second year running, hosts Janet McCunn and Terence Collie put together a great mini festival at the Hampton Hill Playhouse in South-West London this weekend.

Building on their successful line-up from last year, which included Jason Rebello as the headline act, this year’s headline trio was led by pianist Gwilym Simcock, who played out the evening in style, with Rebello in the audience looking on. The trio's set was brimming with fantastic compositions and arrangements including Brubeck's In Your Own Sweet Way, and a quirky little tune called Antics which Simcock wrote and then played on the 50 upright pianos that were dotted around the capital during the Olympics in 2012. Ahead of a week of fantastic piano trios set to play at Ronnie Scotts this week, Yuri Goloubev (bass), Asaf Sirkis (drums) and Simcock deftly epitomized all that is to be celebrated with this format in jazz, interweaving solos, communicating and responding with inventive phrases and making space for each other to shine.

Gwilym Simcock, Yuri Goloubev, Asaf Sirkis
TW12 Jazz Festival 2014. Photo credit: Sarah Chaplin

So to open the festival (unless you count the jam session which took place on the Saturday night at the Bell Inn round the corner), the established duo of pianist Andrew McCormack and saxophonist Jason Yarde produced some incredible live versions of their recorded output to date, drawn from their last 3 albums. A particular highlight was Hill Walking on the Tynerside, a tribute to Andrew Hill and McCoy Tyner, in which the pair elaborated the central melody with a whole slew of improvised interplay, during which Yarde took a hike around the whole theatre while playing, making their performance a truly four-dimensional experience.

Next up was another treat: John Etheridge doing a solo guitar set – or should I say guitars and effects pedals – he played three different instruments and produced a range of diverse sounds to suit his material. We were treated to some Cameroonian tunes, an Abdullah Ibrahim, as well as a handful of wonderful treatments of standards such as Mean to Me, and my personal favourite, a deconstructed Goodbye Porkpie Hat.

Janet McCunn had invited a talented group of local singers to join her on stage to sing with her band led by pianist Nick Cooper. Each singer – including Janet – chose well and performed fresh takes on familiar tunes. Isabel Saunders’ rendition of The Nearness of You really stood out, as did Karl Charity’s performance of I’m a Lucky So-and-so, and the set ended with Amelia Ramkeesoon’s charming version of The Peanut Vendor.

Closing the afternoon sequence was the Graeme Flowers Band, with a blistering funk-infused set featuring tunes by the likes of Shorter, Hubbard, Davies and The Yellowjackets. All four played with evident skill and maturity, reflecting their extensive touring and recording credentials. These are names to watch: the modest Flowers himself on trumpet, Tomasz Bura on piano, Chris Hill on electric bass and David de Rose on drums.

As if that wasn’t enough to be going on with, after a swift curry at the local Indian on the high street, I returned to hear Gabriel Garrick’s new quartet, which came into being after a date at the Retro Bistro in Teddington in January, when Terence Collie, Andy Hamill and Paul Cavaciuti were the trio for their guest trumpeter. This line-up looks set to go from strength to strength, give or take the comedy moments with Andy on kazoo!

The only set to fall short of the lofty ideal set by the organizers was Shireen Francis’ Caribbean tour, which took a few numbers to get into the swing of things. However, Francis’ warm and soulful delivery of the lovely Ivan Lins song The Island was immaculate, and showed her true class. There were other noteworthy songs such as Trinidadian calypso London is the Place for Me, which captures the moment of arrival for many West Indians, and also the evocative Cuban song Dos Gardenias. Geoff Castle was her able arranger and accompanist, joined by Neville Malcolm on bass, Kenrick Rowe on drums and Ross Anderson on guitar.

The Hampton Hill Playhouse is a classy little venue, made all the more enjoyable by the skill and attention to detail of sound engineers Jon Bird and Leo Appleyard.

The date for the third TW12 Jazz Festival can already be put in the diary: 19 July 2015

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