REVIEW: Phil Robson Quartet featuring Jed Levy at Pizza Express Jazz Club (2018 EFG LJF)

Phil Robson, Jed Levy and Oli Hayhurst at Pizza Express
Photo: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk
Phil  Robson Quartet featuring Jed Levy (Pizza Express Jazz Club, 18 November 2018. London Jazz Festival. Review by Anthony O'Reilly)

Phil Robson's move to NYC is London's loss, but an appreciative crowd eschewed sweet wintry sunshine to welcome his return to the eternal twilight of Pizza Express Jazz Club. Joining him onstage were the ever-dependable British bassist Oli Hayhurst and Americans Clarence Penn on drums and Jed Levy on tenor.

This quartet is in fact a collaborative venture with tenor saxophonist Levy, who contributed half of the tunes. This made for a nice contrast, as Robson's compositions often involved long, serpentine lines reminiscent of Adam Rogers' writing, whilst Levy's tended to sound more "in the tradition" but nonetheless with unexpected turns and very satisfying. Added to the warmth of his sound and excellent command of the instrument, Levy is an impressive package deserving wider international recognition.

Phil Robson is already gaining wider international recognition, as witnessed by the admiring comments on his playing from Peter Bernstein and Wayne Krantz to be found on his website. His great fluidity and fleet inventiveness were, as ever, balm for the ears.
 
Oli Hayhurst played imperturbably, which is perhaps as well since Clarence Penn – being the creative and thoughtful soul he is – rarely played what might have been expected of the drummer. This led to a couple of moments in which there was a sensation that the wheels might come off, but equally it meant that there was never a sense of business as usual and that Penn was really influencing events in the music. It would have been a very different gig with any other drummer, which is testament to the individuality of Penn's approach.

There was a hint of the four members still growing accustomed to each other's playing and to some of the music, which itself was interesting to witness and no bad thing. It would be intriguing to hear how this quartet continued to integrate should it play more in future.

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