Bill Evans and Bryan Baker blow hard at Jazz Cafe

There were three stars of tonight’s show at the Jazz Cafe in Camden: saxophonist Bill Evans’ serpentine solos that floated like the proverbial butterfly but stung like a bee; guitarist Bryan Baker’s truly head, ear and eye-popping solos; and the Jazz Cafe’s newly installed sound system that produced a wall of sound as muscular and clear as the music being dished up by these US monsters.

BillEvansBand MG 7778

Evans was only recently in London for two barnstorming nights at Ronnie Scott’s, backed by fellow former Miles Davis alumnus Darryl Jones on bass and Steely Dan drummer Keith Carlock. The gigs were initially billed as Evans and guitar maestro Mike Stern (yet another Miles man), but due to the latter legend being incapacitated in a freak accident breaking both his shoulders after a fall (which he’s thankfully recovering from) guitar ‘stunt double’ Bryan Baker stepped in to fill Stern’s sizable shoes, and based on tonight’s performance it’s not hard to see why he got the call. Evans’ mentions the fact he first played with Baker 10 years ago when the guitarist was just 19, and it’s nice to see Evans following Miles’ habit of showcasing prodigious younger players – as he himself first appeared with Davis aged just 22. Baker is extraordinary. His backwards baseball-cap and tattooed biceps could place him in any rock or metal band, but perhaps he’s only legally allowed to play jazz, such is the complexity and intensity of his burning rock-edged solos, which boil up into volcanic torrents of notes, blurring from dizzying altered intervallic zigzags into blitzkriegs of thrashing octaves. It’s astonishing stuff.

BillEvansBand MG 7890

Evans is no slouch either, his feathery tone and equally quick lines fluttering and buzzing from rasping lows to coruscating highs, his playing has an effortless flow, brimming with ideas. Bassist Dave Anderson and drummer Joel Rosenblatt offer the perfect blend of stylistic malleability and dynamic groove power – and yet the sheer volume of the gig is both a help and hindrance tonight. So while it’s a pleasure to hear the newly refitted Jazz Cafe’s sound system roar like never before (it really is a giant leap on from the dusty old one) most of the gig feels distinctly rock as opposed to jazz in both sound and presentation.

BillEvansBand DSF3930

If there are shortcomings then it’s in the material – Evans first came to prominence with Miles and showed just how much he could do over one tense funkily-implied chord – whereas tonight it’s often a blues and countrified base from which solos and songs are launched. ‘Slow Rolling Ride’ is one of several tunes plucked from his latest vocal-led album, Rise Above, Evans singing with a very fine soul-edged voice that’s substantially rich and resonant, as is his keyboard playing (between solos) on a Fender Rhodes that’s positioned centre-stage. Yet the shallow lyrics and often-obvious melodies seem throwaway compared to the interstellar soloing, while a more intricate piece like ‘Soul Bop’ proved the band could stretch beyond static chords and bluesy foundations with ease.

Yet this is road-toughened festival band that is used to playing to huge crowds on the international circuit, which, when crammed into a great but medium-sized venue such as this, was in fact just a little overpowering. But that hardly seemed to matter to Evans, the amazing Baker and the fine rhythm section – as all looked like they were having the time of their lives and the crowd loved it too.

– Mike Flynn
– Photos by Roger Thomas  

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Open letter leads protest at cuts to Rad…

Over 500 leading musicians from across the jazz, folk and...

Read More.....

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival director’s ‘…

The Irish jazz world has been shaken by the sudden...

Read More.....

George Coleman, Jimmy Owens and Frank Lo…

The Annual SAM Benefit concert will be held on 13 April...

Read More.....

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Makaya McCraven …

The first names have been unveiled for this year’s EFG...

Read More.....

Turville's Quintet Dare To Dream At Brig…

This is the last show in the tour and there’s...

Read More.....

Durrant At The Double With Duo Of Improv…

Phil Durrant and Martin Vishnick (pictured) launch, Rifinitori di Momenti, their forthcoming...

Read More.....

GoGo Penguin, SEED Ensemble and Marquis …

The wider jazz programme for this year’s Love Supreme Jazz...

Read More.....

Branford Marsalis Quartet Muster Technic…

  Bookended by a short opening solo piano set from Nikki...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy announce Royal Albert Hall …

Grammy-winning powerhouse group Snarky Puppy are gearing up for a...

Read More.....

Waithe On Song At Huntley Conference

  Along with Allison & Busby and New Beacon, Bogle L’Ouverture...

Read More.....

Turquazz: Anatolian Jazz & Roots Fes…

The inaugural Turquazz: Anatolian Jazz & Roots Festival – a...

Read More.....

Saxophonist Seamus Blake launches new al…

Acclaimed saxophonist Seamus Blake releases his new album, Guardians of...

Read More.....

Taborn's Finessed Tapestry Of Textures F…

  The large number of musicians at this sold-out show says...

Read More.....

Abdullah Ibrahim, Gregory Porter, Yazz A…

The full line-up has been announced for Cheltenham Jazz Festival...

Read More.....

Irreversible Entanglements + Matana Robe…

  Matana Roberts (above) is so relaxed tonight her short opening set...

Read More.....

Jazz FM Awards nominations celebrate gia…

The names for the 2019 Jazz FM Awards were revealed...

Read More.....

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra premiere ‘Badge…

The London-based 17-piece Patchwork Jazz Orchestra are set to release...

Read More.....

NJYO, JCM, friends and family pay tribut…

As Jon Hiseman would say: “If you are going to...

Read More.....

Sons of Kemet, Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia …

The programme has been announced the inaugural We Out Here...

Read More.....

NCO hit bullseye with CTI at Ronnie Scot…

Tomorrow’s Warriors’ role as a springboard for emerging talent in...

Read More.....

Countdown To Ecstasy: Royal Academy Big …

  There are some people, who I've never understood, who smirk...

Read More.....

Melt Yourself Down, Laura Mvula and Kama…

The second edition of Love Supreme at the Roundhouse takes...

Read More.....

Michel Legrand 24/02/1932 – 26/01/2019

The prolific French film composer and pianist Michel Legrand was...

Read More.....

Hamasyan In Inspired Orchestral Manoeuvr…

The Brussels Jazz Festival is a relative newcomer, but this...

Read More.....

Zara McFarlane and Soweto Kinch turn up …

The night goes on and they keep on coming, a...

Read More.....

Jazz meets theatrical protest with The A…

Few styles of music can claim to have come as...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy return with new album Immig…

Grammy-winning groove crew Snarky Puppy return with a new studio...

Read More.....

Blue Note spearheads 80th Anniversary Ye…

The iconic Blue Note label will celebrate its milestone 80th...

Read More.....

John Turville dives in Head First – new …

Pianist and composer John Turville returns with a new album...

Read More.....

Uri Caine and Henri Texier dazzle while …

Jazzfestival Münster is celebrating its 40th anniversary, but has only...

Read More.....

Ezra Collective bring the Brit-Jazz Nois…

Much like in other recent editions of New York's Winter...

Read More.....

Yazz Ahmed and Jasper Høiby line-up for …

For some there is a Holy Grail in jazz: to...

Read More.....

Matthew Herbert marks Brexit with Big Ba…

Composer, conductor and sampling-supremo Matthew Herbert is set to release...

Read More.....

Joseph Jarman 14/09/37 – 9/01/19

  The recitation of 'Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City' by Dante...

Read More.....

Wandering Monster step up with 'Samsara…

Bass-led progressive jazz group Wandering Monster are set to release...

Read More.....

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Oded Tzur Quarte…

  The unfeasibly warm November weather was matched by the heat...

Read More.....

Making The Cut Mpu 300x500px

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@prof_lofi lovely sounds
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@astralsocialite @PaulMargree Imagine Keane with less balls
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA