Quite a curate's egg, in other words only good in parts although an evening not without its surprises and charm, this Siggi Loch curated tribute to Blue Note records began with the rare sighting of the yellow shoe wearing boogie-woogie genius of the keys Axel Zwingenberger. The audience, myself included, were tickled no end by his frequently recurring sideways-to-the-auditorium grin every now and then. The pianist gave a little chat about the, at this distance cognitive dissonance-inducing, boogie-woogie origins of Blue Note, now a quaint side note of a double take. Zwingenberger impressed most on his spontaneous improvisation in style of his own invention and it was an endearingly eccentric nod-and-a-wink way to open, he followed by duetting with the Jazz Animals' leader saxophonist Émile Parisien on Blue Note's first hit 'Summertime' and we soon got a better idea about how the Hall's acoustics were in another kind of blue note, more a muted one, not doing anyone any favours because everything seemed so underamplified and lacking impact.
Yaron Herman on piano took over and was a slightly subdued presence throughout and suffered most although bassist Joe Martin fared even worse acoustics-wise throughout. Trumpeter Theo Croker however was a hyperactive and entertaining presence and beamed out bright and brassily, his white hat and skinny jeans look completed by his shades finishing off the hipster quality, a contrast to the very soberly suited nonagenarian sax legend Benny Golson who completely stole the show when he came on late in the first half to play his composition the feelgood 'Along Came Betty' and later best of all the moving 'I Remember Clifford' and the crowd pleasing 'Blues March' in the second half. He and half the band started saluting one another which was fun and Croker even started taking photographs of Golson to complete the relaxed on-stage mood.
Trombonist Glenn Ferris was excellent early on in the ensemble horn part for 'Blue Train' and soloed most significantly later on 'Blues March'. He was cool enough to even stoop to tie his own shoelaces while lolling at the back of the stage on a break. But he vied with Coker who played a blinder throughout, pure toned and agile on 'A Night in Tunisia' and astutely in keeping with Golson's vision when the master joined.
Gerald Cleaver on drums only came into his own latterly in the second half (there were hardly any drum solos) and his role was not the scintillating factor it often is when he is found in an avant garde setting. I thought that the band were quite stiff early on and only warmed up properly in the second half. Perhaps it was the formality of the venue at play.
The surprise of the night was the talk given at the beginning of the second half by Kenneth Woolf, a nephew of Blue Note co-founder photographer Francis Woolf. Quite the amiable caricature of an English gent like something out of a PG Wodehouse novel and didn't he ramble? But his contribution provided a trip down memory lane, what the evening was at heart all about. SG