Nigel Price Organ Quartet live and loud at Lauderdale House

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Three-quarters of the way through a 40-date UK tour that has already taken on legendary status, the Nigel Price Trio augmented by tenor-saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos made their way to Lauderdale House in Highgate for gig No.31. Not world-weary as might be expected after their zigzag travels across the nation but battle-hardened, they turned in a towering performance that pleased everyone, young and old, packed into the house’s elegant interior.

It’s no secret that guitarist Price is a Wes Montgomery aficionado or that the tenor-organ-guitar-drums concept is a well-worked strand in the jazz tapestry. Are there still rewards to be gained from its reiteration in this day and age? On this evidence, and that of earlier hearings, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Price brings an intensity to his own improvisations that can make each solo seem like a personal challenge to be overcome and it’s his energy and drive that rubs off on the reminder of the quartet. With new recruit Ross Stanley at the imposing Hammond B-3 organ, this group can move from a rewarding, bluesy groove on to a lashing, hard bop driver and then subside to a limpid ballad, all without turning the proverbial hair. As one observer put it, commenting on Stanley’s command of the Hammond’s potential for bombast, “he goes beyond cheesy into brilliance”.

Xenopoulos is my nomination for tenor find of the year, always unflappable, his nicely centred mid-period sound moving from Turrentine-like placidity on to roaring Chicago-style shout-ups, with an occasional hint of Shorter’s asperity showing through, this evident on the group’s fevered version of ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’. Matt Home’s drum accents and his instinct for impactive snare explosions, never more evident than on Oscar Pettiford’s perky ‘Trichotism’, play a vital part too. Whether taking in a familiar standard like ‘Angel Eyes’ or Emily Remler’s ‘Blues for Herb’ and Price’s own ‘Blue Genes’, this quartet was as one, tight, hard-swinging, creative and exhilarating all the way. As Price put it, as if stumbling on a new truth about his band after 30+ dates on the road, “you suddenly realise it sounds amazing.” He’s right, you know.

– Peter Vacher