The Impossible Gentlemen Set Out Their Stall At Brighton's Old Market

IMP-G

Since their last visit to Brighton, the Anglo-American fusion collective have expanded, in more ways than one. In addition to incorporating reedsman Iain Dixon, they now also include not two members of Pat Metheny's cohort, but three – as a result of co-founder Gwilym Simcock having joined the guitarist's most recent band, which previously featured Steve Rodby and Adam Nussbaum in the bass and drum chairs. Tonight they're previewing some material from their new release Let's Get Deluxe – after a detailed introduction from promoter David Forman, they launch into a breezy groove, with the airy tones of soprano sax setting the scene, before Simcock embarks on a backbeat-driven solo on electric piano that never descends into anything so vulgar as actual jazz-funk – Rodby and Nussbaum are an exemplary rhythm team, solid and swinging, hard and down-home or light and spacious as required, and far too creative to resort to unimaginative fusion cliches. Guitarist and co-leader Mike Walker uses his preternaturally precise and controlled chops to build to an unresolved climax. 'You Won't Be Round To See It', from the same record, starts with a brushes solo before introducing bass clarinet in an intricate crepuscular swing, then a slinky stop-start vamp with Dixon returning to soprano. His solo work matches Walker's guitar in it's clean, controlled articulation; the rhythm section break into boppish swing feel for a Simcock organ solo, even featuring a series of trades with Nussbaum. Then 'It Could Have Been A Simple Goodbye' starts with a hushed, introspective guitar/organ duet before evolving into a spacious, low-key simmering groover, like late-period Steely Dan with added Metheny, with Walker's solos a masterpiece of control and soulful construction worthy of Larry Carlton. Picking up the intensity, 'Dog Time' features bass clarinet again, the perfect addition to this low-slung dirty funk which builds to a thrilling climax.

The second set starts with a rippling keyboard fugue, slightly obscured by the venue's unsympathetic acoustics, which builds into a fast swing and climaxes again in exciting three-way trades between Simcock, Nussbaum and Walker. The latter's touch is so light and assured that he maintains his clean, fluid articulation at any speed, worlds away from the unmusical shredding that besets too many electric guitarists. He unveils the full force of his dryly understated Salfordian personality introducing the next tune, 'Terrace Legend', promising a 'sporty, triumphant feel', and delivering via the good, old-fashioned excitement of a screaming pentatonic solo, after which Simcock and Nussbaum simply take off into the stratosphere. 'Clockmaker' features some fine tenor work from Dixon, whose textural and melodic input fits seamlessly into the team. 'Heute Loiter' segues via a flawlessly constructed solo bass statement from the impeccably solid Rodby into the harmonically simple, almost pop-jazz 'Just To See You', and 'Sure Would Baby', a raucous 7/4 blues from the irrepressible Nussbaum, provides a suitably uplifting closer.

Whatever qualms one might have over the band's adherence to a tried-and-tested style of jazz-fusion are dissipated by the sheer quality of musicianship on display. The quartet of Simcock, Walker, Rodby and Nussbaum give a lesson in the art of ensemble playing, sharing a complete understanding of every nuance of dynamic and timbre, and organising their use of space like a team of crack footballers commanding the pitch. Nussbaum in particular is a joy to watch; there's a visible atmosphere of good-humoured respect onstage, and newcomer Dixon is a perfect match; a welcome and extremely versatile extra voice. Plaudits are due to promoters David Forman and Ralph Erle for bringing this world class music to Brighton.

– Eddie Meyer
– Photo by David Forman

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