REVIEW: Kit Downes plus Pete Wareham Double Bill at the 606 Club (2014 EFG LJF)

Kit Downes plus Pete Wareham
(606 Club. 17th November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Joe Stoddart)

As part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, the 606 hosted a double bill by two Mercury Prize nominated artists, pianist Kit Downes and saxophonist Pete Wareham.

Kit Downes was first up, joined by Swedish bassist Petter Eldh and long-time collaborator James Maddren on drums, playing music almost all composed by Downes for the occasion, beginning with 'Politix', an intense piece with frenetic playing from all, setting the tone for the set ahead. Eldh's bass playing was particularly impressive considering a string broke early on in the piece. After a small pause to fix the problem, the band continued with Jinn, in which the solo piano exposition highlighted some of the many musical and technical facets of Downes' playing that make him such a formidable pianist, qualities to be reinforced later on solo set closer Alliri.

After 'Jinn', James Maddren started off Rusty with an excellent mallet drum solo leading into the melody which featured some great unison lines between the bass and Downes' left hand. It was finally Eldh's turn to start off a tune, Faster Than Light beginning with a virtuosic exploration of the double bass before a angular piano melody accompanied by muscular bass and drums led to motivic ending. Petter Eldh's Children With Torches, the only piece of the set not written specifically for the performance, followed before a reprise of set opener 'Politix' and the solo piano encore.

Pete Wareham is probably best known for his work with Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear and Melt Yourself Down, 'Bump' is different from these. It is a standards project, in which Wareham deploys a more rootsy, mellow and maybe even traditional sound. It worked wonderfully from the off with his sax blending beautifully with Ben Hazleton's bass intro for a rendition of Sam Rivers' 'Beatrice'. The band then moved the tempo up for Sonny Rollins' 'Strode Rode', Wareham's full tenor sound reminiscent of Rollins himself while Hazleton and drummer George Bird provided not just a solid foundation but also an exciting backdrop. A more bluesy element of Wareham's playing was evident on 'The Old Country' before an up-Latin version of 'Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise' veered more towards the type of playing one may expect to here with Melt Yourself Down, more rhythmic and motific ideas coming to the fore as well as streching the range of the instrument.

Duke Ellington's 'Sophisticated Lady' featured a fantastic unaccompanied bass solo while George Bird contributed a fine drum solo on 'Downstairs Blues, Upstairs' (another tune from Sam Rivers' 1964 classic 'Fuchsia Swing Song') but Wareham was the star of the show with closing tunes 'My One & Only Love' and Art Pepper's 'Trip' serving to really highlight the scale and breadth of his playing. From the tenderness of the ballad to the more free, faster paced feel of 'Trip' and everywhere between throughout the evening, Wareham shows time and time again why he is such a respected presence on the UK jazz scene.

Both trios offered a huge amount of musicality, intensity and excitement in their performances and Downes' exciting new compostions balanced well with Wareham's interpretations of some classic material. The result was a cleverly put-together double bill, the bands complementing each other very well indeed.

Set Lists:

Kit Downes Trio

Faster Then Light
Children With Torches

Encore: Alliri (Piano Solo)

Pete Wareham's Bump

Strode Rode
The Old Country
Softly, As I A Morning Sunrise
Sophisticated Lady
Downstairs Blues, Upstairs
My One & Only Love

Encore: Trip

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