(Lauderdale House, November 13th 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Aha, so this is it, the real thing. This is the level that a band can get to after thirty gigs of what will now be a thirty-nine rather than a forty date tour (*). This is the stage - so rarely reached - where every arrangement has been learnt, internalized, completely owned and the sheet music has (just about) disappeared. This is the level of empathy which still allows each band-member the freedom to take the others completely by surprise, deliver the unexpected, and make them smile. This is how it is when every ending is shaped, landed, parked with the care you would expect on a commercial recording. When every soloist is given the space to find the limelight and (metaphorically) dance, and then to exit, taking the applause from a packed room. Would that it could happen more often.
I had interviewed Nigel Price before this tour started for the Telegraph, so it was particularly satisfying to see how all the hope and eagerness in that interview has now translated itself into something so refreshing and enjoyable. The audience's appreciation, applause and affection for the band warmed and grew steadily throughout the evening
Nigel Price had his virtuoso moments - such as a solo section on Emily Remler's Blues for Herb - of which Martin Taylor would have been proud. Vasilis Xenopoulos makes a great sound on his Cannonball tenor sax and shapes every solo superbly with facility and fluency. Matt Home is always impeccable and crisp and precise, but I don't think I've ever heard him play with the sense of adventure he had last night. At the heart of every texture is Ross Stanley, finding the variety of a Jimmy Smith or a Joey de Francesco, but also pulling the time around with fabulous madcap inventiveness.
I have one personal moment of complete surprise which really stands out. It was just after the interval. Vasilis Xenopoulos' solo on I Have Never Been in Love had started suavely in Buddy Tate mode, and had grown in intensity, bluesiness and dirt. The packed room at Lauderdale House had given him one of the loudest rounds of applause of the evening. It was the moment for Ross Stanley on Hammond organ to start off. But where to go? Where indeed. Straight to the full-on brooding multi-layered chromaticism of an 1890's German church organ loft with Max Reger. Stanley was clearly enjoying himself there: he visited similar treacly, gooey territory later, on Detour Ahead.
This was a five-star gig, with moments to savour throughout. It is to be hoped that the latter stages of this tour, which ends in Sevenoaks - of all places - on Dec 17th - leads to a recording. Get thee to a nearby studio?!
(*) Because of the closure of John Gripton's JAGZ Sunday lunchtime gigs at Ascot station.