Friday, 11 March 2011

An Evening of Jazz

Last night I went with a couple of friends to my local pub, The Test Match (and they don't come much more local than right next door). The Test Match is a beautiful Grade 2 listed, Art Deco building which opened in 1938. It is perfect for the intimacy of a Jazz performance.

The Midland Jazz Connexion is the brainchild of Paul Ricard. Paul is based in Nottingham, and gained his PhD in Historical Musicology from the University of Nottingham. I copied the following from his website;

"Paul Ricard is a versatile pianist, singer, songwriter and session musician based in Nottingham. His piano repertoire includes jazz 'standards', Latin jazz and blues, played in a style strongly influenced by Michel Camilo, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner. Paul's vocal repertoire includes songs by artists as diverse as Charles Aznavour, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Memphis Slim, Sting and Van Morrison, in addition to his own growing list of 'originals'. These include songs such as Jazz Cafe, Helene, Mademoiselle de Paris and the First of May, and many piano solos including Naomi, The Last Ride of Jesse James, Spirit, Esbjorn's Threnody, Speak Easy and Sonnerie.

Although Paul is an impressive solo performer, he is also very much at home with his stylish jazz trio, The Midland Jazz Connexion, a classic combination of piano, bass and drums, playing a mixture of Jazz, Latin, Blues/Rock & Roll but with a growing list of original titles".

The line up of MJC does apparently change, but always has Paul on Piano and Vocals. He is accompanied at times by drums, double bass and saxophone, but last evening it was a trio made up of Paul, Andy Wilson on guitar and Steve Barwell on drums. Needless to say that they are all very accomplished musicians, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The repertoire was a beautiful mix of some jazz, some blues, some Latin and some rock and roll. As a lover of Jazz pianists like Bill Evans, I could certainly detect his influence, and there is no greater compliment to pay Paul. Quite a number of pieces were well known, but arranged in such a way to bring out the best in the three musicians. I enjoyed arrangements of a couple of Beatles songs, plus Jazz and Blues classics. I heard for the first time his own composition 'Paris Blues' and will definitely try and find a copy of it somewhere. The trio certainly enjoyed themselves, and that goes for me as well.

This has started to sound like a poor quality review by a music critic. But I didn't attend as a critic, I attended as a fan of this style of music, and I certainly encourage those who have not heard the MJC before to rectify that situation.

I think that the Test Match may be planning regular Thursday night Jazz evenings, and that the MJC may have a regular slot once a month. I do hope that this is true.

I have been a lover of Jazz and Blues for as long as I can remember, and I have scores of favourites; top of the list at any one time is dependent on my mood. For no other reason than I can, the four examples below (two Jazz and two Blues) are always near the top of my list. Whatever music you like - happy listening!

Oscar Peterson - Jazz

Charlie Parker - Jazz

Bessie Smith - Blues

Robert Johnson - Blues

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