The Sarah Tandy trio at Servant Jazz Quarters; and the John O’Gallagher, Hans Koller, Percy Pursglove, Jeff Williams quartet, Vortex, London

From March 2016. There are so many fine jazz-friendly places in Dalston, a district that is a significant match to Soho in both quantity and quality. The latest that I discovered recently, on Blues Street, where else, near the well-stocked library, …

Published: 22 Dec 2019. Updated: 13 months.

From March 2016. There are so many fine jazz-friendly places in Dalston, a district that is a significant match to Soho in both quantity and quality. The latest that I discovered recently, on Blues Street, where else, near the well-stocked library, is a brasserie that features jazz on Sundays. Servant Jazz Quarters, a few streets away from the Blues on Bradbury Street, close to Gillett Square, is more of an out-and-out bar and even if the ‘Jazz’ in the venue name doesn’t always accurately describe its musical policy there is quality jazz regularly enough to make it worth hitting the spot. Chief among the must-hear acts the proprietors put on regularly is pianist Sarah Tandy. Tandy has a natural affinity for straightahead jazz, her sound splashed by the modern jazz approach of Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans as well as the spirit and taste of early Herbie Hancock easily conveyed and discerned. Away from a trio setting she appears in Jazz Jamaica depping for Ben Burrell.

Down a steep staircase performing on the bar’s basement ‘stand’ on this latest occasion (her trio partners vary) she was appearing with drummer Sam Gardner and double bassist Alex Davis whose rich vibrations warmed the room. Tandy takes her shoes off to play and eased into the classics, the set unfolding with a nicely undemonstrative version of ‘All Blues’ from Kind of Blue providing a lingua franca for jazz fan and neutral bar-goer, dipping their toes in jazz for the first time perhaps, alike. ‘My Shining Hour,’ called by Tandy in E flat, was also one of the tunes in the first set as was Monk’s ‘Straight No Chaser’, each piece given time to marinate and when put to heat, simmer.

Later in the Culture House at the Vortex I picked up on where I had left off earlier in the week when I had been listening to pianist-composer Hans Koller’s Retrospection (new triple LP out next month on Stoney Lane) featuring Fish Factory and Hamburg NDR studio sessions recorded between June 2011 and 2014. Three players from these larger group ensembles were here with the Birmingham scene New Cool School catalyst. US alto player John O’Gallagher, now studying for a doctorate in the city, has a very clear vibrato-less style that is very appealing. As an academic he’s interested in tone rows and has written a book on the subject while as a player he makes organic connections in real-time via Bird and Lee Konitz-accented priorities in the character of his playing personality. A Bach-ian discipline meanwhile runs deep down in the Koller musical profile comping here by injecting a crisp chunkiness to the big vamps that the Lee Konitz drummer Jeff Williams knows how to unloosen and shake free.

Williams has a fine new quintet record out on Whirlwind called Outlier. In the notes he mentions his wife We Need To Talk About Kevin author novelist Lionel Shriver who came into the club later and talked a little afterwards to the musicians and a few jazz fans as conversation turned spontaneously somehow to jazz in fiction and a mention of Rafi Zabor’s The Bear Comes Home. At this Williams’ eyes lit up, the image of the Tin Palace where the saxophone-playing bear and hero of the novel goes to play a vision leaping into view. SG

Sam Gardner, top left-to-right, Alex Davis and Sarah Tandy at Servant Jazz Quarters. pic marlbank

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Geraldine O’Kane and Colin Dardis at The Thing Itself, Cellar bar, Enniskillen

First published in 2018. The emphasis at the eleventh running of The Thing Itself turned out to be firmly on poetry. Colin Dardis and Geraldine O’Kane were the featured artists. Colin Dardis went on first after The Thing Itself host, singer …

Published: 22 Dec 2019. Updated: 13 months.

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First published in 2018. The emphasis at the eleventh running of The Thing Itself turned out to be firmly on poetry. Colin Dardis and Geraldine O’Kane were the featured artists. Colin Dardis went on first after The Thing Itself host, singer guitarist and lead poet Caimin O’Shea, played a few numbers. He chose electric guitar, and his brief and effective set included a Joni Mitchell song.

Colin’s first full length collection The x of y (Eyewear, £10.99) has just been published. The poet, who is from Cookstown in Tyrone, is a confident performer, witty and fluent, definitely the influence of Paul Durcan peeking through a little although his style is not as satirical. And yet the cadences and quiet footfalls of the said and unsaid in his writings are Dardis’ own.

Dardis certainly is able to inhabit the present moment and does wistful well. Moreover, crucially there is an emotional edge to his observations. Geraldine O'Kane, also from Tyrone in her case Dungannon, read after the over long interlude spot filled by Dungannon guitarist/spoken word poet Paul Corrigan. Geraldine, part of the new Belfast poetry generation, a scene that draws inspiration and stands on the shoulders of literary giants such as Michael Longley, Ciarán Carson and most recently Sinéad Morrissey, reminded me of the rhythmic sparkle of Medbh McGuckian. A distinction is in her use of micropoetry, some of these short poems drawn from 2014 collection Quick Succession say a great deal in a small number of words. SG, pic marlbank.