16th November 2014
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.