Bennie Maupin

The Capstone, Liverpool
16th November 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Having played with some of the best in the world Bennie Maupin was in Liverpool tonight for an inaugural concert with his own quartet. Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, amongst others, have utilised the prolific woodwind player. Now he walked on stage in his own right with Carl Orr (guitar), Larry Butley bass) and Rod Youngs (drums) to the acclaim of 50 - 60 fans, well old enough to know his pedigree.

Improbably the evening got off on the wrong foot with a fault to the guitarist's technical equipment, so Maupin improvised before heading off into Miles Davis's In a silent way. His soprano sax, throaty, blowy and slow, was joined by hypnotic silent drums and repeated notes on bass before he moved up to tenor playing well within himself and directing the band, before improvising at will over them.

Name dropping Kurt Elling, he continued with a piece of his own, Maiden Voyage. Further testing the audiences' knowledge, 'Who's heard of Lester Young?' he expanded on Message To Prayers, on bass clarinet in a deep easy paced organ-like refrain with a Caribbean drift to it. The other players showed they are no slouches when stepping up to the plate - finger plucking good from the bass, sashes a go-go from the percussionist, and the guitar almost mandolin- like before jam time and a chaotic climax.

As this was only one of four gigs in the current UK tour, the last is at Ronnie Scott's, it had already been a privilege to have seen them and the collective buzz in the interval bar said as much.

As the lights dimmed again some heavy breathing from his tenor sax propelled windswept waves of sound to languish on the smooth jazz beach of the backing group, as Maupin extended the tube to exhaustion.

Hints of John Coltrane followed in the next piece with the sax being overtaken by Orr's dexterity, Young's right hand stick and Bartley's determined strumming on You Don't Know What Love Is, while All Blues had the bassist over-egging his deepest notes.

Finally, Maupin's probing of the audience struck gold, when no-one recognised Lyle 'Spud' Murphy, the inventor of a self taught Equal Intervals System - sounds in nature from a unique overtone system, so we were informed. The composition Equal Justice, dedicated to Spud, saw Maupin briefly on piano, before switching back to sax while the guitarist's pedal steel footwork went into overdrive, the drummer utilising his full artillery, before everyone finished on a wall of noise leading to the woodwind's coda wind down.

Jet- lagged he might have been but Maupin continued to end it all as peacefully as it had started; Orr playing some far away island stuff as they all mooched along. Strong sustained applause brought the group back on stage to a standing ovation which was the last sounds of a great night.

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