Picture the scene, around the corner from the Jazz Cafe a hare-eyed protester with a megaphone ranting anti-Lockdown conspiracy theories; a busy line of traffic crawling along Parkway closer to the Camden Town venue and then into the Jazz Cafe itself, newly reopened after Lockdown with an all sit-down socially distanced gig and the first live jazz marlbank has experienced since the pandemic hit us disastrously in March.
A double album launch led by two Ubuntu label artists bassist Joe Downard and trumpeter James Copus marked the occasion, both bands welcomed to the stage by the voice of label head honcho Martin Hummel on the PA. Downard opened first with a sextet bristling with keyboards (two players playing two instruments each) playing from Seven Japanese Tales with Copus who would follow with his quartet here taking part in Downard's band in the front-line alternating flugel and trumpet with saxophonist Alex Hitchcock, the latter excelling later the more Michael Brecker-like he became. As for Downard he has a lovely tone and a beefy Jasper Høiby-like sense of attack.
Copus' quartet itself had more firepower and featured the great ex-Acoustic Ladyland keyboardist Tom Cawley who was superb throughout, his dirty electric keyboard attack tapping into a 1970s jazz-rock style that a young Chick Corea would have recognised. James Maddren on drums isn't on Copus' album Dusk and had a part to read from his stand but was powerful and quite loud (I always think of Jeff Ballard when I hear Maddren play) while as for Copus it was uncanny that he came over like Ian Carr who was one of the first English players with his band Nucleus to channel jazz-rock when the style was new and explored further by Miles Davis on, among other albums, Bitches Brew. Copus is a brilliant young player and live he had that tenderness and contrasting power that is stimulating to witness. He unveiled a new tune at the beginning before playing from the album. I liked 'Yearning' most towards the end. Live jazz again in Camden town? Bring it on. Stephen Graham