Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Alec Harper quartet, Louche, Greek St, Soho ***1/2

It's great to see new jazz places develop on the Soho scene - with new jazz spots including the Shed and over at the Boulevard plus this Wednesday night session led by tenor saxophonist Alec Harper and running over the past year. The street level …

Published: 19 Jan 2023. Updated: 17 months.

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It's great to see new jazz places develop on the Soho scene - with new jazz spots including the Shed and over at the Boulevard plus this Wednesday night session led by tenor saxophonist Alec Harper and running over the past year. The street level room in the Louche situated over by the Soho Square end of Greek Street (a stone's throw from the Pizza diagonally across to nearby Dean Street) has fine acoustics, this set was on the ground floor and there is also a capacious basement and upstairs scope. We last reviewed tenorist Harper who has an old school penchant for Hank Mobley in Kentish Town last year and once again joining him from that enjoyable Oxford Tavern session was drummer Will Cleasby and guitar genius Nick Costley-White plus instead of bassist Tom Farmer the equally excellent Dave Whitford who put on a fine showing.

Whitford impressed on Paul Booth's 2019 album Travel Sketches a good deal. Pick of the action we caught was a tender version of the beautiful Strayhorn and Ellington classic 'Isfahan' and later the downhome Mobley favourite, 'Soul Station.'

Alec Harper and Dave Whitford at the Louche on Greek Street at the latest Wednesday night running of the Harper residency. Venue website for more details

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Andy Davies quartet, Upstairs at Ronnie's, Soho ****

It's been a while since we last checked out the Wednesday night hard bop session upstairs at Ronnie's led these past 15 years by the trumpeter and flugel player Andy Davies. What was striking last night on the latest running was how packed the place …

Published: 19 Jan 2023. Updated: 14 months.

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It's been a while since we last checked out the Wednesday night hard bop session upstairs at Ronnie's led these past 15 years by the trumpeter and flugel player Andy Davies. What was striking last night on the latest running was how packed the place was, a lot of the assembled punters, mainly by the look of a good many of the casual throng chilling, aged in their twenties and thirties, and stood lolling in front of where the quartet were playing. Standing always adds to the sense of feverish atmosphere especially when the gig goers can get very close to the band. We stayed for the first set - the jam was to follow after the break - reluctantly heading back into the chill of the night.

A quartet on this occasion Rick Simpson on the upright piano it is fair to say stole the show, his big technique marauding over the 88 keys as playfully as if they were the dinkiest of dinky toys. We've been a fan of Daniel Casimir's for years having first heard the bassist on our home turf in a small bar in Northern Ireland and more recently with Camilla George's band a year and a half ago (on that occasion playing bass guitar) in Camden Town. But here he was in classic hard bop guise on the double bass, very fast when he walked the swinging lines that are stitched into the fabric of the hard bop repertoire and so in tandem with Simpson made a very propulsive team.

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Rick Simpson and Daniel Casimir upstairs at Ronnie's last night

The waistcoat and bow tie-wearing Welsh wiz Davies removed his cap to cover his flugel that was resting on the floor when not in use. Later the bow tie was loosened a tad rakishly 

Tunes included 'Broadway', 'Blue Monk', Lee Morgan's ever popular 'The Sidewinder' preferred instead of 'The Jody Grind' the Horace Silver standard callously rejected after a brief confab between Davies and Simpson. 'Body and Soul' the highlight of the evening certainly in terms of Davies' interpretative facility and 'Tangerine' the old Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger number from the 1940s that Chet Baker did a delicious version of on his 1974 album She Was Too Good To Me. Davies has chops every bit as compelling in his heyday as Chet's and can do tender as well as blistering. Saleem Raman on drums was as tidy as ever and again like Casimir and Simpson was able to negotiate ridiculously up-tempo passages to the manner born. So there you have it - a jewel of a night in the crown of the London jazz scene continues to beckon and gleam.