Bobby Wellins quartet, Vortex, London

From 2014. The streets of Dalston, like so many areas of London this weekend, were still full of dressed-up vampires, ghosts of many descriptions, visions of Hallowe’en the night after, with their capes swishing, top hats angled rakishly, a …

Published: 10 Nov 2019. Updated: 6 months.

From 2014. The streets of Dalston, like so many areas of London this weekend, were still full of dressed-up vampires, ghosts of many descriptions, visions of Hallowe’en the night after, with their capes swishing, top hats angled rakishly, a carnival of the night.

I’m not sure what Bobby Wellins thinks about Hallowe’en if he is into it or not. The saxophonist whose career goes way back to far-off Buddy Featherstonhaugh quintet days was playing with his quartet at the Vortex, and stood, his head bowed sometimes with a slight smile on his face when he wasn’t in full flow, pianist Liam Noble to his right a spirit in itself to behold on his tremendously abstract improvisation during ‘Love For Sale’, bassist Mark Lewandowski tucked in behind the 78-year-old Scottish jazz icon, and drummer Dave Wickins to the side, a quality timepiece alert to the tick-tocking flow of the music tapping an urgent alarm call when needed.

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It was frustrating to only be able to stay for the first set but there was plenty enough here to savour and think about later, most specifically Wellins’ reading of Monk, the character in the phrasing so appealing. Wellins, adding a little ‘o’ deliciously to his Sphericalness’ first name as he quietly announced ‘Little Rootie Tootie’, Lewandowski in his solo was able to quote another tune of Monk’s (‘Nutty’) as did Noble in one section (‘Straight No Chaser’) and they weren’t even showing off.

Wellins last month put out one of his most significant records in a long career the five part ‘Culloden Moor Suite’ and here in the nitty gritty of a great jazz club with his quartet instead of a larger ensemble showed a different and no less imaginative side to his artistry. SG

Liam Noble, above left, Bobby Wellins, Mark Lewandowski, and Dave Wickins at the Vortex

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National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland featuring Yazz Ahmed, The MAC, Belfast

If you came expecting ‘The Chicken’ etc, then you were at the wrong gig. This was a night for original music, superbly played by this lively and talented outfit under the leadership of Andrew Bain and Malcolm Edmonstone. The first half was a tribute …

Published: 10 Nov 2019. Updated: 6 months.

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If you came expecting ‘The Chicken’ etc, then you were at the wrong gig.

This was a night for original music, superbly played by this lively and talented outfit under the leadership of Andrew Bain and Malcolm Edmonstone.

The first half was a tribute to two much-loved Scottish musicians who died recently — the great tenor player Duncan Lamont and trombonist Rick Taylor (Isle of Skye by way of Newcastle-upon-Tyne). Both made a significant contribution to the orchestra’s work over the years and the set included several of their compositions, including parts of Lamont’s ‘Carnival of the Animals’ which featured some fine reed section work. There are some excellent soloists in this band — in fact everybody gets a turn. No names were given but when next you see them look out for an impressive soprano saxophone player.

After the jazz came the Yazz — namely Yazz Ahmed [pictured: press shot]. The British-Bahraini trumpet and flugelhorn player is also recognised for her original compositions. With a superb tone which she supplements by heavy echo and reverb effects, her whole sound has been described as a kind of psychedelic Arabic jazz. The orchestra shone once more, handling some tricky arrangements and driven by a powerful rhythm section.

Keith Baker