Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Usual Suspects

British modern Jazz has a tough time getting by, surviving. Really it’s one big collective. Someone gets a booking and it’s a ring round to find a group of musicians who are free. ‘Groups’, just can’t make it.

So, when Simon Spillett (coolish dude in a suit with a sax) formed ‘Standard Miles’, to play standards in the style of Miles Davis, that was quite something. Especially as this is the style of the 1960’s, the Herbie Hancock period.


 The five (round up the usual suspects) had certainly gone to extraordinary lengths to look like the Davies band of that era. Spillett introduced Henry Lowther (Trumpet and Flugelhorn) “I chose him for his uncanny resemblance to the great Miles Davies”. Lowther is short, a little plump, white haired and (how can I put this) very white.

You’ll get the idea that this wasn’t a tribute band or a band of looky-likey’s. They weren’t playing the Miles Davies Greatest Hits. It was just five great musicians playing a bunch of standards they know, in a style they love. A hand in an old glove.

So, Henry Lowther used a mute a heck of a lot and that short staccato stabbing sound, but the mask often slipped a little – did Davies ever play the flugel? He was in good form. There was John Critchinson delicate on piano and Dave Green on Bass. We had a rare treat of a trio – Piano, Drums and Bass on their own.

Trevor Tomkins was really something tonight. When the French government banned Absinthe, the distillers produced a new aniseed flavoured drink that carried a hint of what it replaced but was something new. It was called ‘Pastis’, because it was a pastiche of what went before. TT really took his drums to 1963 tonight and gave everything a certain flavour, a memory of something very familiar but irreplaceable, without pretending to copy what can’t be copied.

There was a taste of it all - urban sax, short and stabby sax and trumpet, fast and furious and very slow and thoughtful.

Even though these five play together a lot, know each other well, there’s nothing like being a group to take it up a gear. A thoughtful night and lots of cheers and whistles too.

Neil Harris

( a don’t stop till you drop production)

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