Clark Tracey and Brotherhood of Breath - The Music Of Chris McGregor Among The Manifold Delights At South Coast Jazz Fest

Brotherhood LWorms 12

Last week saw the highly successful South Coast Jazz Festival at Ropetackle, Shoreham-on-Sea and full credit must go to the team of director Phil Jackson, Claire Martin, Elaine Crouch and Julian Nicholas for organising such a wide range of jazz events and performances throughout the week. Thursday and Friday drew interesting comparisons between rising stars and well-established figures.

Clark Tracey, an increasingly important catalyst in the development of young musicians, presented his latest quintet in the context of an evening entitled Bebop & Beyond. Often overlooked in these days of modal and ambient jazz, bebop retains its freshness and urgency and the quintet handled it with great assurance, both in terms of adhering to the tight arrangements and in solos which demonstrated a high degree of technique and invention. A solid programme included 'Hot House', 'Groovin' High', 'Anthropology' and 'A Night in Tunisia', giving all the members opportunity to show their capabilities, and on 'Minority' trumpeter Alexandra Ridout's clear tone and the expressive alto of Sean Payne brought to mind the definitive 1953 rendition by Clifford Brown and composer Gigi Gryce. All the time Clark drove the rhythm section in customary fashion, eliciting solid contributions from pianist Elliott Sansom and bassist James Owston, who showed a prodigious mastery of his instrument. A group of youngsters well worth looking out for.

alexandra-ridout-southcoast

In contrast, Friday saw musicians with a wealth of experience gathered in a tribute to Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. Kevin Le Gendre's Q&A session before the performance explored the legacy, inspiration and continued relevance – musically, socially and politically – of the music, drawing on the knowledge and experience of members of the band, and the presenter introduced Hazel Miller and Barbara Pukwana, who were in the audience; two figures so important in the creation of the Brotherhood and the subsequent Dedication Orchestra. 

The music that followed was suitably joyful, evoking the spirit of the Brotherhood, with its mixture of township jazz and improvisation. Many of the numbers came from the album Country Cooking – 'Sejui'; 'Dakar'; 'Big G' (dedicated to George Lee); 'Sweet as Honey' (or 'Harry' – in memory of the late Harry Beckett); and 'Country Cooking' itself. Several of those who appeared on the 1988 recording were present – saxophonist/bassoonist Robert Juriz, trumpeters Dave De Fries and Claude Deppa, and trombonists Fyass Virji and Annie Whitehead, whose solo on the title number showed what an exciting player she is. A plunger growl developed into an array of slurs, slides, trills and glissandos; rasping then a velvet burr. The full works, rich in texture and warmth.

Another highlight was the arrangement of 'Seabreeze', with tenor saxophonist Frank Williams taking front stage and soloing with strength and lyricism, soaring above a bedrock of riffing brass and reeds. Uplifting throughout, the musicians nudged and encouraged each other in their solos, loosening things up, then reining in with the strong gravitational pull of the rhythm section. This was a heartfelt tribute to one of the most influential modern bands in jazz and the obvious infectious enjoyment and rapport of the musicians was met with rapturous applause and appreciation by the capacity audience.

– Matthew Wright
– Photos by Lisa Wormsley 

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