REVIEW: Pigfoot Shuffle at 1000 Trades, Birmingham

Pigfoot Shuffle: Chris Batchelor, Paul Clarvis, Liam Noble and James Allsopp at 1000 Trades
Photo credit: © Brian Homer
Pigfoot Shuffle
(Birmingham Jazz at 1000 Trades, Birmingham, 12 January 2018. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Pigfoot, the quartet led by Chris Batchelor on trumpet with James Allsopp on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Liam Noble on keys and Paul Clarvis on drums, specialises in deconstructing the music of various genres. Over the past few years in their residency at the Vortex Jazz Club they have usually focussed in a gig on one particular genre, taking key examples of the genre and reworking them in arrangements that play around with the original in a witty, but respectful manner. So we have had gigs dedicated respectively to traditional jazz, opera, Elvis Presley, the music of 1972 and the Motown hits.

For this Birmingham gig the band played a selection of these arrangements in what Batchelor has called the Pigfoot Shuffle. The original idea was for the audience to select the tunes to be played as the concert proceeded, but this ambitious plan was shelved in favour of Batchelor selecting the material with a degree of spontaneity to suit the mood of the evening.

This approach meant a lot of variety for the audience; we had versions of spirituals such as A Closer Walk With Thee, the New Orleans classics St. Louis Blues and Basin Street Blues, Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz, Elvis Presley tunes such as Jailhouse Rock, Love Letters and Love Me Tender (played as the encore with Batchelor and Allsopp making some lovely noises on two bizarre instruments with lots of pipes!), selections from opera classics such as The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro and Salome’s Dance, some great tunes from 1972 by Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder and even Burt Bacharach’s Alfie.

All this material worked well, but I particularly enjoyed the selections from 1972 including Curtis Mayfield’s Pusherman, James Brown’s Get On A Good Foot and Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog.

Chris Batchelor
Photo credit: © Brian Homer
This made for a very entertaining evening that went down well with a packed audience. What makes it work so well is that the melodies are so strong and are enhanced by the way that the arrangements bend the tunes subtly without destroying the original. The music is witty without ever descending into a kind of mocking of the original composition. Clarvis on drums drives it all along with humour and rhythmic surprises, Noble adds interesting harmonic twists, and Batchelor and Allsopp take some great solos. I enjoyed it all, but have one reservation. All the material performed was quite short with the playing of the arrangement followed by a number of short solos and then back to the arrangement.  I would have liked, on at least a few of the tunes, a more developed and extensive working of the material.

Tony Dudley-Evans is Programme Adviser to the Jazzlines programme at Town Hall Symphony Hall and Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

LINK: Birmingham Jazz's programme, which continues with the Ben Crosland Quintet next Friday, 19 January. 

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