Charlie Stacey Stirs Daniel Harding Quartet To Great Heights

Rumours of a rift in the UK jazz scene between the much-touted new scene of irreverent South London groovers and the faithful acolytes of the tradition don’t seem to have much credence here in the Verdict tonight as a mixed crowd of young aficionados and well-travelled elder hipsters fill every seat in the Brighton club. Charlie Stacey himself crosses such notional boundaries with ease as alumnus of both NYJO and Tomorrow’s Warriors and bandmate of such diverse figures as Yussef Dayes, Nathaniel Facey and Marshall Allen; his boundless energy and enthusiasm set the pace for this quartet under the leadership of London-based Danish drummer Daniel Harding as they throw themselves at the repertoire with total commitment. A version of Coltrane’s ‘Satellite’ starts proceedings with a masterly solo from Stacey, and tenorist Alam Nathoo impresses with his range and fluency; Don Grolnick’s ‘Nothing Personal’ switches between a loping 12/8 and a burning swing that drives Stacey to even greater heights of virtuosity, with dizzyingly fast right-hand runs anchored by the rock solid timing of his crashing left hand; ‘Brew’ is a lyrical but unsentimental ballad that thrives on Nathoo’s smooth, full tone and a neatly constructed bass solo from ; ‘Clouds’ is a potentially rather drab piece of Euro jazz lifted up by the sheer energy and fertility of Stacey’s imagination.

There are explorations of less obvious corners of the repertoire with pieces by Jerry Bergonzi, Keith Jarret and Joe Henderson; ‘Milestones’ is the earlier Miles Davis bop-fest rather than the more familiar modal workout and simply flies as the band eat up the changes with relish; they tear through Monk’s tricky ‘Played Twice’ with such gusto that when their exploration of Ornette Coleman’s ‘Round Trip’ bursts into no-time-no-changes freedom it seems like an entirely logical progression, through the depths of harmonic complexity and out the other side. Harding is a self-effacing presence, leading from behind, but his supremely sensitive drumming is crucial to the success of the project, managing to swing hard and drive his soloists to greater and greater heights without ever overwhelming them with extraneous volume. Jansen has a complementary quiet mastery on bass, breaking out into solos that reveal his prodigiously comprehensive technique; Nathoo is a superbly accomplished player, and Stacey astonishes again and again with his inexhaustible imagination. Such is the energy they generate that we’re well beyond the second half and into extra-time before anyone notices; proving that there’s freshness on the scene everywhere you care to look.

Eddie Myer
Photo by David Forman

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