REVIEW: Charles McPherson Quartet at Pizza Express

Charles McPherson with bassist Daryll Hall (background)

Charles McPherson Quartet
Pizza Express Dean Street, 17th February 2017, First House. Review by Charlie Anderson)

Famous for performing bebop standards at blistering speeds, 77 year old bebop veteran Charles McPherson shows no sign of slowing down. Beginning with the standard Spring Is Here, you wouldn’t have known that Spanish pianist Albert Palau was performing with McPherson for the first time. Their latin version of Nature Boy provided some contrast, with Palau taking the first solo, intelligently running through some fluid lines and interacting with drummer Stephen Keogh before McPherson ended with a cadenza displaying his command of the upper register.




The tune Marionette showed McPherson’s ability to still do his trademark fast runs up and down the horn, and these brief glimpses of jaw-dropping virtuosity remind you of the mastery that McPherson displayed whilst playing with Mingus, Barry Harris and on the soundtrack to the Clint Eastwood-directed film Bird.

McPherson is a master of tension and release and this was evident in his version of East of the Sun, which has been part of his repertoire for some years now. His solos always show a good understanding of shape and structure, telling a story with a beginning, middle and end.

The Sonny Rollins classic Tenor Madness was played at a blistering pace, but bassist Daryll Hall kept up and even surpassed himself with his best solo of the set, proving that the more challenging a tune is, the more often it can produce surprising results.

Drummer Stephen Keogh, a McPherson regular, was featured on another uptempo bebop classic, Anthropology, allowing him to unleash an Elvin Jones style display of virtuosity.

As the band were doing an early show and a late show, they performed a single set of about an hour and a half, leaving the audience demanding an encore. April in Paris provided an overall summary of the evening: plenty of swinging classic bebop.

L-R: Albert Palau, Charles McPherson, Daryll Hall, Stephen Keogh
Photo credit: Paul Wood


LINK: Preview feature about Charles McPherson

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