Saturday 26th August 2018
Ushaw Jazz Festival
It wouldn’t be Ushaw without Punch (A.K.A Alan Barnes). The much-travelled sax/clarinet ace covers more miles than Lewis Hamilton, hopefully not quite as fast although, when wielding saxophones large and small, he’s well outside the speed limit and should be booked (for next year’s festival).
I’ve heard this genial performer on many occasions but I don’t think I’ve known him to burn quite like he did on baritone last night.
In keeping with the band’s name, he was on fire yet still managed to relax and play some Johnny Hodges’ style alto on his own composition Portrait of Belle from his Christmas Suite which he had performed at a previous Ushaw gig.
Of course, it wasn’t all Barnes, Alan, we had Barnes, David, blowing a lusty trombone on Ecaroh (hold the title up to the mirror and you’ll get a clue as to the composer). Guitarist Pawel also impressed.
Alice Grace looked good and sounded likewise on You Turned the Tables on me; Get Happy; Hear the Moment and It Was a Very Good Year, the latter number done somewhat faster than the norm – it worked although, it has to be said, I think she needed either more mic or less volume from the band.
Having a sax titan as guest soloist meant less time in the spotlight for the other reeds although this was rectified in the penultimate Okay With Jay from the Buddy Rich pad. Which prompts me to suggest, why not a Buddy Rich set from the band at some future date?
Getting back to Okay with Jay – Jay being Jay Craig – solos abounded with Forster making the early running followed by Summers, Gowland, Toms, Ferris and Barnes, A, culminating in what was touted as a ‘blistering baritone battle between Alan and Sue. The guest pulled no punches and Sue wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Suffice to say she held her own.
Michael Lamb, as usual, took most of the trumpet solos in between darting back and forth to conduct and compere on those rare occasions when Alan Barnes was lost for words. In the absence of Pete Tanton, Marshall and Stacey were given their moments of glory.
Guy Swinton was featured on the finale/encore, Caravan. Deon Krishnan was solid on bass guitar throughout and dep pianist Mike Bowman, although predominantly kept under wraps, provided the support a soloist needs to prevent him/her straying.
As a matter of (limited) interest, I remembered Mike as a young sax player buying reeds from me when I worked in J.G. Windows. We’re now both grey-haired although he has more of it than me!
Nice to see you again Mike. – Lance Liddle, Be Bop Spoken Here