Steve Ajao Jazz Quartet at Symphony Hall Jazz Lines 14/02
Well, I’ll be honest, I know nothing about jazz, no understanding about this improvised, seemingly unstructured, form of music. Its been around for about a century, coming from black American roots, as so much does.
I enjoy some forms which are closely associated with the blues side of Jazz, who cannot enjoy Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and so on, its the free form stuff I am lost with, Maybe that’s the idea!
Anyway, I found my way here to see Steve Ajao, who happens to be a very good Blues man, take to the saxophone and play some jazz.
The rush hour session at Symphony Hall, is a bit surreal, behind the glass backdrop, dark silhouettes, sheltering under umbrellas, bustle past. A crowded number 72 slowly, silently rolls bye, whilst inside a full foyer of music lovers, sip their beers and coffees as Steve plays ‘Falling In Love With Love’, he deftly substituted Lunch for all Love themed songs.
A swing along opener, followed by ‘Tenderly’, pretty laid back, cool jazz, best found in dark cellar bars in the early hours, with good company and a bottle of fine wine. ‘We’ followed at a rip roaring pace, and an entertaining drum solo from Miles Levin. Steve moved onto soprano sax for appropriately, ‘My Funny Valentine’ as the Dudley Double Decker slipped through the rain outside.
Some fine finesse’d fingering, on piano, from Tim Amann, stood out alongside Steve’s sax playing. One thing is very notable with this session and that is the undoubted passion with which the music is played. Double base was provided by Alan Gilchrist, who seemed most comfortable when accompanying Tim on the keys.
I had a train to catch, but not before an excellent ‘You Don’t Know What Lunch Is?’. Have I learnt anything? Only to be open to listening to all sources of music. I still find difficulty in this freestyle form, but I can accept that it seems to produce superb musicianship, which feeds into, and influences so many other genres. If you have the time, and make the effort, sitting in the foyer of Symphony Hall, during ‘rush hour’ is free, you’ll hear some good music, which changes from Jazz to Blues in the spring. It does fill up, so if you want to sit comfortably, be there no later than 4.30
Words and Photos Graham Munn
Rodney Branigan @ The Bedwardine 22/02/13
Back in December, I was fortunate to have been mesmerized by Rod Branigan’s performance, culminating in his ‘duel guitar flip trick’, how could I not return for his Feb. date.
Once set up, he goes straight into ‘Body Language’, taken from his Sketches album, a very good bit of Americana/blues. A quick breath and an interpretation of Ian Moore’s Muddy Jesus, performed with an 8 string uke across his back, acoustic 6 string to the front and the little conga drum, ready to hand. That sort of hints at what to expect, combinations of ever present guitar, uke, conga, and a tambourine under his foot. Rod is not adversed to reworking good music to mix in with his self penned songs. A bit of rap from Kanye West, Outkast’s, ‘Hey ya’, and a truly outstanding demonstration of ‘slap’ and fingering his acoustic feeding in to Lennon’s ‘Come Together’, simply, superb. Rod stopped for a well earned break, but not before a twin guitar bit of schizophrenic musicianship.
‘Creep’, borrowed from Radiohead, is the excellent restart to the evening, we are all spellbound, by Rod’s skills, two brains maybe? and a liberal splash of banter and humour. Requests for guitar songs were invited, back came the shout, Black Sabbath, we’re almost launched full on into an acoustic ‘War Pigs’, but alas no, it looked promising, I think he should go for it.
There are the songs taken from Sketches, a mix of reworks and self written music, along with the more blues orientated set from his Nothing Better ToDo, album. Notables from these tracks are Muddy Waters, ‘Champagne and Reefer’, and his own ‘Buckets’, not about bailing out the floods, though ‘Stop The Rain’, written at Glastonbury, probably is. You can feel the rivulets of water running down your neck! An excellent acoustic version of Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’, far less explosive on the ears, was followed by a beer glass slide with tambourine accompaniment of Rod’s take on the Brady Bunch, which compares very favourably with the rather cheesy 1960′s opening theme from the TV series. A truly stunning evening at the Bedwardine, could only be complete with Rod doing his 2 guitar flip trick, as previously demonstrated in December. For those new to a Branigan gig, it is indeed awesome to behold, as ‘Slot Machine’ and ‘Clean Up’, from Sketches, are combined into a phenomenal display of guitar playing.
I can only say again, this man is unmissable, he returns once more on May 21st, for you to get another chance, this time he is bringing along fiddle player extraodinaire Tim Snider. I have already marked my place, I suggest you all mark your calender.
Words And Photos Graham Munn
Do you like good music? like sweet soul music? do you like to party at the end of the week, draw the weekend in with a boogie round the dancefloor, shake those bits to those old soul hits? well in that case the only ticket you need is one for the hip shaking groove machine that is The Official Receivers.
There are few bands in the county (should that read country?) that can incite a breakout of dancing within the first few bars, most bands take a song or two to hit the right groove, but not so with The Official Receivers, the band launch into their opening number and within seconds the Marrs Bar floor is awash with revellers, by the follow-up number, Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy everyone was either strutting, dancing in their seats or singing along in glee.
Funky guitar riffs, sax solo’s, keyboard tinkerings and the frontman’s glorious vocal tones, see’s the seven-piece band deliver a tight, highly energetic and above all, fun set, packed full of firm fan favourites, such as the likes of Mr Pitiful , Hold Back The Night. Whilst the likes of a wonderful strutting, funk ridden Too Hot To Handle and a hollered rendition of Geno and the inevitable Mustang Sally, help create an electric party atmosphere. Slower numbers such as a beautiful, Try A Little Tenderness ooze passion, giving the audience a chance to catch their collective breaths and dance cheek to cheek, whilst showcasing the band at their restrained best.
The Official Receivers are the perfect party band, the soundtrack to your weekend and damn good night out, if I go back to my opening question do you like good music, like sweet soul music, on this evidence the answer is a resounding “Hell Yeah”!
Mike Sanchez & The Potions at Robin 2 Dec. 18th
Mike Sanchez is an R&B institution, he has been everywhere, and played with numerous top bands, in addition to his own line up. He was also responsible for introducing the wonderful Imelda May, who sang with Mike Sanchez’s band for many years. Now here at The Robin, Bilston, playing in his personable style, bringing us the the boogie woogie sounds he has championed. He tells us about his forthcoming biography, Mike Sanchez’ Big Town Playboy, to be published soon, and being written by Mike Maddon. There is no doubt he has led an interesting life, it should make fascinating reading.
Opening in his usual flamboyant style, with ‘Ramblin Boogie’, he mesmerises his audience with his piano and bustling vocals. For this set he was accompanied by Nick Whitfield on double bass, Mark Morgan, drums, and a Buddy Holly styled Tom Bull on guitar, who played with distinction. Mike rattles out the songs, with barely more break than it took to wipe his brow. He blasts out ‘I Get So Hungry’, old favourites like ‘Sapphire’ and ‘Red Hot Mama’, spill easily onto the fans. They are here to be entertained, and Mike puts them to the test, bulging eyes, and wagging fingers, berate the crowd, its show-time start to finish. In amongst all this, Mike introduced his now wife, Sarah Wynne, who took on the vocals for ‘Don’t Freeze On Me’ and bit of R&B by Lil’ Ester Phillips ‘If Its News For You Baby’ very enjoyable. Mike’s music flows seamlessly from his very soul, a medley of wonderful old blues and boogie. ‘Highway 60′, ‘Come Back Baby’, ‘Hurting Inside’ roll forward like endless breakers on the beach. Fats ‘I’m ready’, bits of Slim Harpo, Bo Didley, Chuck Berry are presented from the 50′s and early 60′s. Instructed to ‘Shake your Hips’, we did, and wanted more.
A break from the ‘hot’ keys of the piano, saw Mike pick up his acoustic guitar, and a request from a devotee for ‘Blue Boy’, was granted, a gentler more country style in the mould of Jim Reeves resulted, easing us gently back down from the frenzy that is boogie
Mike Sanchez has entertained us start to finish, the option was here at the Robin or at seated Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, the following night. Why would anyone want to listen to Mike Sanchez and his band, restricted by the constraints of the pews and chairs that populate that lovely old church? The Robin rocked and thats the way it should be.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
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