2nd Liverpool International Jazz Festival

The Capstone Theatre
28th February to 2nd March 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Artistic Director Neil Campbell needs to be applauded for putting on four days of concerts at venues across the city and particularly for the performances each evening at the prestigious venue that is The Capstone.

It's bright lights were a beacon for expectant jazz fans piling in from a miserably cold night and in the warmth of the entrance hall an unexpected treat awaited them - a small selection of on-loan coloured drawings by Miles Davis, produced in the decade before his death; the most evocative and explicit being Playing the Horn!

First on to grace the auditorium was Jason Robello's quartet. After a few warm up pieces the three quarters full crowd were then introduced to the exquisite sounds of singer Joy Rose, whose voice stole the show. Nevertheless the world renowned Rebello led with his bank of piano and keys in a compulsive rhythmic drive spurred on by the drumming of Troy Miller. Surprisingly Stevie Wonder like vocals were added by Xantone Blanq; a great night.

Friday was the turn of The Impossible Gentlemen. In the queue for tickets was a lady who runs the Grimsby Jazz festival she a big follower of Alan Barnes; in the toilets Blossom Deary was singing 'You can't hold that against me!'

The explosive drums of Adam Nussbaum and guitar of Mike Walker joined bassist Steve Rodby and an unassuming Gwilym Simcock on piano for a set of end of tour bravura, in front of a nearly full house. Quixotic guitar and a gentle rumble of drums just held off the noise of some latecomers as Simcock coaxed his own instrument into the fray. It was not long though before some dystopian foreplay and hands on interstitial matrices saw the music coming out of the mould, but sometimes there was an otherliness, a reticence, a Freudian retentiveness to it all.

Something that the following night's headliners, Blue Touch Paper, Colin Town's Anglo-German six piece, were up to dispel. Like a super tanker coming up the Mersey they strode on ready for an evening of keyboard, sax, guitar, drums and bass. It was the sax of Mark Lockheart that stood out amongst some frenzied backing, although drummer Benny Greb also had his moment. In the interval it was good to see an elderly gent had finally taken off his duffle coat off after three days!

Last but not least, a stunning end of festival set from Get The Blessing. Miss them at your peril. Blueshift fusion jazz from the edge, as unexpected as if it was from another planet. With playing as tight as the Bank of England's interest rate, this was a Jungian inspired collective consciousness spectacular, including an ecstatic hand clapping song for the audience. Great stuff; the horns of Jake McMurchie effortlessly interfacing with the trumpet of Peter Judge and was it really just the bass guitar of Jim Barr alongside the drums of Clive Dearner? Brilliant.

As a bonus for those who made it, the After Party in the Pacific Bar of the Liner Hotel saw saxophonist Dave O'Higgins put the boat out on a wonderfully packed weekend.

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