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.
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