Tony Kofi Quartet, The Grainstore Brewery, September 16

It is a sunny Sunday afternoon in the recently-bypassed Rutland market town of Oakham. An ideal time for tidying the garden before the onslaught of autumn, perhaps, but the place to be is the Grainstore Brewery. The hoppy home of Davis'es Brewing Co Ltd, it is host to live jazz sessions on the third Sunday of the month.
Tony Kofi Quartet, The Grainstore Brewery, September 16
On this occasion, saxophonist Tony Kofi was brewing up at storm at the 'stage' end of the bar. Tony originates from Nottingham, just up the road, so this is virtually a 'local gig' for him. He promised a selection of standards and tunes, but this was not to be a leisurely stroll through the songbooks, however, as became apparent as Tony led us into Sam Rivers' 'Beatrice' as an energetic opener. Yes, he dipped into 'standard' territory with Cole Porter's 'But Not For Me', but this was John Coltrane's arrangement given the Kofi treatment on alto. Frank Loesser's 'I've Never Been In Love Before', from 'Guys And Dolls', was a tune Tony first heard when he was five and the melody has stuck in his head ever since and provided a tasty close to the first set.

His only departure from playing alto was on an inspired, soulful reading of Coltrane's 'Central Park West', a highlight of the second set, with Tony's soprano sax ringing loud and clear round the rafters and pillars of the Grainstore. New York and Oakham may be worlds apart, but here an unlikely connection was forged!

As you would expect, there was an excursion into the works of Thelonious Monk with 'Four In One', a challenge readily accepted by his accompanying musicians.Imagine you are playing keyboards and someone hands you a chart of a Monk number! If Al Gurr was worried he did not show it, likewise bass player Zoltan Dekany was equally confident. Drummer Neil Bullock really looked to be enjoying himself, playing creatively as part of the ensemble and relishing every chance to show his solo skills.

They made a great job of 'Milestones. That's the early Miles Davis version of which Charlie Parker famously said:"There's too many changes"! The afternoon concluded with a vigorous encore of 'Half Nelson', leaving the band, audience and glasses fully drained.

The snag with visiting venues such as this in the sticks is that you can't drink and drive. True the Grainstore is next door to the railway station, but Sunday services are less than ideal. So, I made a pint of their 3.6% 'Cooking' beer last for longer than I'd have liked. Yes, that's right, the beer was 'Cooking' and so was the jazz!

Review by David Brown

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