After Still Waters and Fringe Magnetic, two trumpet-led groups that offered respectively an unsentimental and likeable amalgam of show tunes and original material courtesy of Henry Lowther, and widescreen Schoenberg-meets-Bukowski experimenting led by Rory Simmons, Saturday night/Sunday morning at the Vortex in London, during the Jazz At Lincoln Center residency, saw the last of the three jam sessions organised to complement the concert hall programming.
The late-night session had the rhythm section of established Vortex house pianist Jonathan Geyevu, with bassist Peter Randall and drummer Andy Chapman of Rhythmica plus newcomer, tenor saxophonist Binker Golding. They were joined by JALC members trumpeter Marcus Printup, trombonist Chris Crenshaw and, taking over the drum chair from Chapman, after a keen Hungarian drummer who had turned up waited his turn, was Ali Jackson.
The previous day Jackson had performed and spoken during the key note speech concert Wynton Marsalis made shortly after Marsalis had been presented with a Fellowship of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama by the Principal of the Guildhall, Professor Barry Ife.
Jackson has a strong, individual driving hard-bop and Afro-Cuban rooted style and with Printup and the honeyed sound of his fellow Georgian Crenshaw, were a strong presence at the session, the evening unfolded quickly. Very occasionally, only for a few bars, there was a little disguised boogaloo, but Printup was mostly fed with a strong pulse studded by finely accented brush strokes and superb stick work by Jackson. Printup’s trumpet style is pure and bold with a disarming candour and remarkable individuality, and distinguished himself as he has for so many years with the JALC orchestra. He and the band were playing superbly and continued to when Wynton Marsalis joined to jam around midnight. The band eased into ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and with Wynton in no hurry to leave moved on to other material including ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ and later still, ‘Cherokee’.
More guests joined including Michael Mwenso who hosts the late jams at Ronnie Scott’s and scats wonderfully (his style a little reminiscent of Jon Hendricks) and Soweto Kinch who raised the momentum still higher. Later Wynton sat down at the Steinway next to Geyevu to play the instrument himself at one stage (he sounded a little like Duke Ellington sounds on records, lightly and politely at first but firm) and gave the promising Geyevu a few pointers, while the Hungarian drummer played at last, pitching his sound somewhere between Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette.
As the set developed a new momentum Wynton was happy to receive an embrace from a woman sat in the front row and beamed as he looked out into the club to see people dancing and shouting their applause. For the last hour, after he left, other jammers played with Soweto staying on and hornman Claude Deppa added a township feel playing from the entrance door, while fellow South African Brian Abrahams’ uplifting behind-the beat groove and James Gardiner-Bateman gave a funky alto lift to the sound. Young trombonist Nathaniel Cross also showed he’s got a big future ahead of him.
- Stephen Graham