O'Higgins and Luft London jazz festival appearance: a pick-of-the-gigs

The release early of O’Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane was probably the most significant ''modern mainstream'' album of the year in terms of UK jazz. Certainly there was no finer interpretation of classic Monk and Coltrane material to appear this …

Published: 6 Nov 2019. Updated: 21 months.

The release early of O’Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane was probably the most significant ''modern mainstream'' album of the year in terms of UK jazz. Certainly there was no finer interpretation of classic Monk and Coltrane material to appear this year.

The quartet slows it right down and by doing so captures the essence of ‘I’ll Wait and Pray,’ for instance, the George Treadwell-Jerry Valentine song Sarah Vaughan performed in 1944 with the Billy Eckstine orchestra and that a decade and a half later was interpreted by John Coltrane on what would be issued as Coltrane Jazz.

Dave O’Higgins turns in an exquisite performance and clearly he is at the top of his game. Heard in a different context recently wih Darius Brubeck at the Limerick Jazz Festival underlined the feeling that he is in the form of his life. A saxophone icon of the UK jazz scene of Irish decent O’Hig is in the studio with his band who are new generation guitarist Rob Luft stepping up to act as co-leader, and with drummer Rod Youngs out of Washington D.C. known for his work with Jazz Jamaica – and completing the line-up Belfast organist Scott Flanigan who had first surfaced to wider recognition touring with blues guitarist Ronnie Greer and a significant recruit. Flanigan has James Pearson-like chops at his disposal and that is no small claim.

O’Higgins says: “The music we’ve chosen to play focuses on lesser known Monk compositions and some of the songs Coltrane chose to record in the late-50s, more than the usual few Monk tunes and modal Coltrane so often heard. The choice of Scott Flanigan on organ changes our course from the obvious sonority associated with either musician.” One of the best albums anywhere in 2019. Hear the O'Higgins-Luft quartet during the EFG London Jazz Festival on 17 November.

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Words of wisdom from Steve Gadd at his Dublin drum masterclass

The queue snaked around the corner along the corridor outside the JM Synge theatre at Trinity College, Dublin, as far as the eye could see. It was going to be a hot one inside and so it proved, the hall was rammed. Steve Gadd, drummer …

Published: 6 Nov 2019. Updated: 2 years.

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The queue snaked around the corner along the corridor outside the JM Synge theatre at Trinity College, Dublin, as far as the eye could see.

It was going to be a hot one inside and so it proved, the hall was rammed. Steve Gadd, drummer extraordinaire, whose work has adorned records by you name it: Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Chick Corea, Patti Austin, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Steely Dan, was delivering a masterclass and everyone wanted to be there it seemed.

The American began by walking the walk and playing drums before then talking the talk. Joined by Michael Blicher, the very soulful saxophonist from Blicher Hemmer Gadd who are playing Dublin venue the Lost Lane tonight, who was on hand for some duos (later a percussionist, Eddi Jarl, Gadd says they like to ''hang out with'' also joined and who added a little tasteful shaker and just as quickly faded into the background).

Gadd and Blicher played 'Treme' and 'Omara'. Gadd then opened up for questions and they came thick and fast. Gadd's views? He delivered them in a very easy going and open demeanour and there is no big shot bullshit about him at all although you could understand it if there was.

He says he thinks about time… ''all the time''… when someone asked about ''groove in time''. In fact the word ''groove'' came up a lot.

Gadd demonstrated the samba in a few ways when asked, and showed how a flam can change the essential rim sound.

Using two brushes in each hand he said when asked by an audience member that this gave ''a firmer'' beat and he showed us his home practice routine which was illuminating and quite martial in a way, starting with lots of press rolls and moving around the kit. It seems obvious but needs stating: Gadd has a perfect technical grasp of the rudiments of drumming. Everything is built on that facility. But there is so much subtlety in what he does and that is achieved through his interpretation, taste, and artistry. Recently I heard Richard Bailey of Osibisa and the Steve Winwood band play in a Highgate pub in London and you can tell in his case how influential Gadd is on his playing. He must be one of many top drummers to have learnt from Gadd over the decades.

Gadd got everyone doing a clave early on and he explained that some Latin players were very strict about this but he did not really get into the doctrinaire side so much.

Interestingly he talked about the bass drum and how it opened up the groove and he showed us his heel toe action and how you can displace beats. He also spoke about playing with a metronome and when learning new material taking notes as he familiarises himself with whatever song it is.

Steeped in jazz history he talked about how nurturing legends like Gene Krupa and Dizzy Gillespie were in his early days. He said Buddy Rich was good to him and he knew all the stories! He recalled how both Chuck and his brother Gap Mangione were friends from his youthful years and his and their families knew each other. On Chick Corea, their fairly recent record Chinese Butterfly is excellent by the way, he said he could really understand what he wanted from a drummer when he heard Chick himself play drums. And tantalisingly and with no little humour an eye roll and a grin rather than a drum roll he confessed with a shake of the head meaning that the stick click on his famous drum solo with Wayne Shorter on 'Aja' was hardly deliberate.

The masterclass was hosted by Trinity College Jazz Society in association with Dublin Jazz.

Report: Stephen Graham. Photo: Dave Keegan. Eddi Jarl is pictured on the left, updated 12/11/19

Tickets are available for the Lost Lane late show tonight.

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