2019 Highlight: Dave Smith, Live at The Vortex Solo Drums + Electronics 11.11.17

Under half an hour in length yet pretty vital listening for anyone into drums, in other words and not only but also anyone into jazz at a deep level. Never mind the width feel the quality: if you think that an album ought to be 70 minutes long you …

Published: 16 Dec 2019. Updated: 22 months.

Under half an hour in length yet pretty vital listening for anyone into drums, in other words and not only but also anyone into jazz at a deep level. Never mind the width feel the quality: if you think that an album ought to be 70 minutes long you will not be short changed it is worth adding. Dave Smith, well known on the jazz scene, for instance marlbank caught him back in 2014 with Strobes, Dan Nicholls’ group that also featured the guitar and electronics of Matt Calvert plus the pin sharp visuals of Screwgun label graphic artist Stephen Byram on the big screen behind them. The rapport between all three that time was immediate and Smith came into his own all guns blazing.

Dave Smith is also known for touring with Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s acclaimed Americana-loving globetrotters.

Live at The Vortex Solo Drums + Electronics 11.11.17 recorded during the London Jazz Festival is a different kettle of fish entirely. A solo drums album labour of love it is on one level a specialist thing but a wider audience ought to get it too. Note that the electronics do not get in the way too much, which is often a problem, they really just act as a kind of sonic ceremonial incense or put another way the radar screen on which the rhythms can be viewed spanning an ocean of sound. Antonio Sánchez in his score for Birdman which was solo drums entirely changed things in recent years because he made it plain to a non-specialist movie audience the notion that a drum solo or number of solos are valid as composition.

Live at the Vortexsimilarly tells a story; there is a certain arc to the abstraction of percussion; and a thought process at play that is most significant. Shut your eyes and listen. You will get something out of this that you have never heard before. And yet you may not be able to put that feeling into words but the feeling will exist and release vivid impressions that will remain with you, pulsing. SG

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Chris Potter’s Underground / Deelee Dubé

First published in 2018. The first set of the Underground’s return to Ronnie’s was gritty improvising of the highest order by one of the greatest saxophonists alive in his prime and the band’s the thing. The flavour was metrically advanced freebop, …

Published: 16 Dec 2019. Updated: 6 months.

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First published in 2018. The first set of the Underground’s return to Ronnie’s was gritty improvising of the highest order by one of the greatest saxophonists alive in his prime and the band’s the thing. The flavour was metrically advanced freebop, by times funky and tender often dizzyingly uptempo particularly in the early forays. With Chris Potter, the Dave Holland, Pat Metheny and Steely Dan sideman, who switched from tenor saxophone to flute on ‘Zea’, were the mighty bluesician Adam Rogers on electric guitar; the big fingered baseball cap wearing London born New Yorker Fima Ephron a Rogers playing partner on his 2017 album Dice on a white bass guitar; and Dan Weiss on drums, his absorbing solo in the latter part of the approximately 60-minute set splashing the cymbals from the heat of the anvil to the spa of lapping wave.

Tunes back-announced by the quietly spoken side hair parted simply dressed Potter – who left the stage to disappear backstage when his three colleagues were getting their thang on simmeringly 20 minutes or so in – two long numbers on and which were ‘Train’ (like ‘Zea’ more about which in a mo from 2007’s Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard) and ‘Time’s Arrow’ (from 2009 album Ultrahang) and to keep distracting words to a minimum tidily then forward announced before the extraordinary ‘Zea’ utilising a captured live-recorded just created flute figure that the technology allowed Potter to play over on tenor, and ‘Tweet’ (“l’ll have to rename it,” the Chicago born 47-year-old joked) – the set burnt on the camphor of the night.

Upstairs in Ronnie’s bar as the second set downstairs got under way, Deelee Dubé, (top, centre) sang ‘Sassy’s Blues’ while on double bass 'Level' Neville Malcolm behind her, beating like thunder on China Moses’ Nightintales released in 2017, was warm and listening as Alex Hutton on the upright piano locked hands and broke loose to George Shearing’s ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ and the evergreen, wise, ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’, among their standards choices. SG