Sam Braysher, Nick Costley-White, The Dixie Ticklers with Johnny Mars set sail at Jazz Nursery


The Jazz Nursery, set aboard a magnificent replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde, hosted no less than three high quality emerging acts in one evening as part of the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival.

Saxophonist Sam Braysher and his quartet kicked off proceedings with an arrangement of Peggy Lee’s 1947 hit ‘Golden Earrings’. Josh Morrison on drums created a gently simmering Latin groove with Rhodes interjections from Barry Green, whilst Braysher drew out embellished lines full of trills and twirls. Calum Gourlay had just begun a promising bass solo when he was rudely interrupted by a fire alarm, but thankfully the galleon wasn’t found to be alight, so the quartet came back and gave the tune a proper ending. Continuing via a trio of Irving Berlin waltzes, including the 1923 classic ‘What’ll I Do’, the quartet concluded with some original compositions, notably a finely crafted ballad entitled ‘Jim’.

Next onto the Hinde’s stage came Nick Costley-White’s sextet, with a more contemporary style. Guitarist, Costley-White has a flair for melody and he crafted some beautiful lines, supported by the classy bass playing of Conor Chaplin. Tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger led the line with Sam Rapley on bass clarinet, and this unusual combination served Costley-White’s textures well, with compositional echoes of Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Costley-White returned in a different guise for the third act of the evening, as part of New Orleans-style ensemble The Dixie Ticklers, with American singer and harmonica player Johnny Mars – an elder statesman of the blues - joining as a special guest. Their journey through the music of B. B. King started with ‘Every Day I Have the Blues’, and The Dixie Ticklers’ ready and raw music making had an immediate vitality. Costley-White now had a sparring partner in fellow guitarist Fred Abbott (last spotted with indie rockers Noah and the Whale), who delivered some scorching blues licks. Johnny Mars brought to life ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ with his throaty vocals and, in the absence of regular chief Dixie Tickler and clarinettist Dom James (due to the arrival of his first child), bassist Tommy Antonio corralled the boisterous group through the set.

The evening was a great showcase for the Jazz Nursery and demonstrated the emerging talent and exciting scene taking root below deck. Sitting between the portholes and cannon, a young crowd came out to dig Braysher’s reworked classics, Costley-White’s originals, and simply to hear Mars and the Ticklers play the blues.  

– Jonathan Carvell