I'd heard of Clatworthy before and had a couple of albums of his that he recorded in the States. Also heard he was a bit of a "character".
So what was the gig like. In two words, bloody fantastic.
It augured well, he had an experienced and top professional rhythm section, Robin Aspland (piano), Simon Thorpe (bass) and the amazing Martin Drew (drums), however all that would have been nothing if Clatworthy hadn't been up to their standard. He was.
Starting with a burning "Giant Steps", Clatworthy whizzed through the changes. Unfortunately they hadn't quite got the sound quite right on this first number and his saxophone wasn't quite loud enough in the mix, but it was still audible enough to hear that he was an exceptional tenorist, with on this number, a strong Coltrane influence. There was a agile and forceful solo by Robin Aspland which matched Clatworthy's fire.
Benn announced that the next number would be "I get a kick out of you" and naturally enough I expected a medium bounce tempo, but the band surprised with a lovely, slow, slow, rhapsodic intro by Aspland before Benn eased into a slow delineation of the theme. Once again for me anyway, the tenor was very Tranish, but this was the Trane of the "Ballad" album. During the solos, the tempo picked up until they were swinging in a quiet subtle way. Aspland's solo was stunning with some lovely block chords. Nice bass solo from Simon easing into the theme again at the original slow tempo.
I'm not going to emote at length about every tune they played but would mention Benn's original 'Just another addiction' which was again very Coltrane Quartet influenced, with Martin cooking up an Elvin-ish storm on drums.
There was medium- up version of Monk's 'Off Minor', with another excellent, if relatively short solo by Clatworthy followed by some superb Aspland, sounding most un- Monk like.
Monks 'Pannonica' dedicated to the Baroness Konigswater, a great friend and patron to many of the great New York Jazz musicians. Excellent low register control by Benn on this, one of Monk's more affecting themes. Great solos all round on this tune.
Then straight into to Benn's closer, 'The Theme' and the first half was over.
Second half started with Coltrane's 'Lonnie's Lament'' which included a lengthy tenor/ drum exchange backed by repeated figures from piano and bass. There followed a rather too long, for me that is, unaccompanied coda by Benn, utilising multiphonics.
Other tunes heard in this second set were Horace Silver's 'Peace' which segued into a stomping jazz calypso 'Sly Mongoose' which included an absolutely sensational roaring piano solo by Robin Aspland. I'm a big fan of Aspland and have seen him a number of times but I had never heard him better than this. Tonight he was nothing short of superb, a truly remarkable jazz piano player. An added plus was that his electronic keyboard actually sounded like a piano. Nice.
Thorpe was perfect on bass, he is such an unselfish bass player and tonight he played lovely lines and he swung. Martin Drew was at his magisterial best. He always plays for the BAND and this evening his playing fully reflected that, whether it was his Elvin like aggression on the more Coltrane-like numbers or his subtle but swinging mallet work on another number, he was just the perfect drummer. As an amateur jazz drummer myself, I'm never sure after hearing Martin, whether I am inspired to get better or should I just give up and just burn my drums.
All in all it was a great evening of uncompromising modern jazz, with unfortunately a smallish audience. For those who didn't come, I can tell you that you missed something rather special.
22 October 2008