Ed Cherry Quartet with guest Jean Toussaint
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, 11th April 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
These two gentlemen in their virtually identical hats (above), hadn't seen each other for about three decades, it turned out. Guitarist Ed Cherry, was leading a quartet on this rare visit to London. He remembered that when he was at the beginning of his decade and a half in Dizzy Gillespie's band, in the early eighties, saxophonist Jean Toussaint had been in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Their paths would often cross when the respective bands were both booked at European festivals, they had got on well and spent time together.
Not only the title but also the essence of first tune they played together, In a Sentimental Mood, captured that joyous moment of re-connection. They took it gently, thoughtfully, respectfully, passing the tune back and forth. Their solos hugged the shoreline of the melody extremely close. At the moment when Cherry finished the first solo, his closing chords to hand the solo duties over to Toussaint had a quiet warmth, an ineffable, featherlight gentleness about them. It was a truly heart-warming moment.
Cherry gave lesson after lesson like that, he is a real specialist in the exercise of soft power. The multiplicity of ways he knows to contribute to a texture imperceptibly, his lightness of touch in comping and accompanying are, in their understated way, sensational. Sometimes he seems to conjure sounds from the guitar by almost not touching it at all. However, when required to step forward, he plays with a leader's conviction, and the baritone register notes resonate heroically. He did that to maximum effect in an unaccompanied solo excursion on Body and Soul, where those stentorian voices dialogued with a melodic higher voice as sweet as any you'll hear. And he was to left an all-too-brief surprise in store for the end of his 100-minute set. Cherry laid out his guitar slightly more horizontally across his lap, and as he played a couple of blues choruses to say good-night, he produced a tantalising glimpse of wholly different range of guitar timbre and vocabulary. It was like being transported to another world: Wes Montgomery was in the room.
Cherry had empathetic support from the subtle and sensitive pianist Albert Sanz, from bassist Mark Hodgson on top form and ever-creative drummer/ instigator/mastermind Stephen Keogh.
Ed Cherry needs to come back here, and soon.