Tomorrow's Warriors Rich Mix jam, London

From February 2016. At Rich Mix in Shoreditch on the Bethnal Green Road, the new Tomorrow’s Warriors jam began with a quartet on the bandstand, the sound of Jackie McLean, as interpreted by four fine young new players who have been nurtured over the …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 8 months.

From February 2016. At Rich Mix in Shoreditch on the Bethnal Green Road, the new Tomorrow’s Warriors jam began with a quartet on the bandstand, the sound of Jackie McLean, as interpreted by four fine young new players who have been nurtured over the years by the Harrow-based artist development and jazz education-centred organisation, ringing out.

In it the very naturally gifted pianist Charlie Stacey, a 20-year-old Old Etonian former student of philosophy at Princeton, part of the Tomorrow’s Warriors family since long before his teens, growing up on the bandstand, and sounding, even looking, a little inescapably like a young Jarrett say circa Life Between The Exit Signs.

On alto saxophone was Cassie Kinoshi from the all-female band Nérija who made me think of Tia Fuller a bit – the young Londoner’s style, like the Beyoncé saxophonist, speaks to you, not as out there in terms of timbre, but just as communicative and bop-conversant: the tone tender and warm, a confidence in her stage presence that is converted into performance.

On double bass was Rio Kai, tall and lean with dreads down to his waist, coming from a bass guitar background, getting his ear in well on standup bass by a couple of numbers in.

And completing the quartet, who impressed as a group most of all rhythmically on George Adams’ ‘City Gates,’ a piece the 1980s Adams/Pullen quartet used to play, was Patrick Boyle on drums sounding a bit like Eric Ford of Streatham jam-grounded band Partikel.

The quartet kicked things off with a couple of Jackie McLean numbers: one of these, ‘Melody for Melonae,’ from Let Freedom Ring, was the pick in terms of directness and shape.

Jammers joining after a couple of short sets included Journey to The Urge Within bassist and Tomorrow’s Warriors artistic director Gary Crosby, tweaking the sound down after a quick word with the desk and briefly discussing an F pedal point on ‘Donna Lee’ with a very young ridiculously talented guitarist Tjoe Man Cheung who came on with him, later joined by a couple of saxophonists. There was still plenty of light left outside on a warm drizzly day as a red bus swished by glimpsed in the stageside reflection… and the music played on.

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Gary Crosby quartet, Living Room, London

From 2015. Later this month the landmark of 50 years will be reached that marks the only ever live performance of John Coltrane masterpiece A Love Supreme. The album itself passed the half century mark since its release earlier this year. It must be …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 8 months.

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From 2015. Later this month the landmark of 50 years will be reached that marks the only ever live performance of John Coltrane masterpiece A Love Supreme. The album itself passed the half century mark since its release earlier this year.

It must be a daunting prospect to take on a rendition of one of the most beloved jazz albums in history. Yet any trepidation didn’t show as the Gary Crosby quartet took to the stage of the Living Room of the Queen Elizabeth Hall after a short speech of introduction by Tomorrow's Warriors chief executive Janine Irons.

This wasn’t a case of reproducing a facsimile of the album nor was it about taking reckless liberties.

Not hugely long by modern standards, broken up into four parts: 'Acknowledgement' with its instantly recognisable refrain; 'Resolution'; 'Pursuance' and 'Psalm' altogether have operatic intensity and amount to life-changing message music in line with most of Coltrane’s best work. Somehow the journey to the inner urge never went deeper in all his time on the planet than on this suite.

This wasn’t a case either of each player assuming a role. While tenor saxophonist Denys Baptiste, providing most of the emotional heavy lifting, has a very spiritual sound he isn’t a Coltrane clone at all. And Gary Crosby too, with his warm, unfussy and highly mobile approach to rhythm and chordal interplay, particularly in tandem with piano, wasn't setting out to be Jimmy Garrison either.

Earlier in the year Gary wrote on his personal blog explaining his personal relationship to the piece. This is an extract: “What does A Love Supreme mean now? It’s been a part of my entire adult life, all the way through its many phases – whenever I am down, even feeling low, or looking for creativity, it’s one of those albums that lifts me. I carry it everywhere with me […] As musicians, we want to learn from the piece each time we undertake the work. It’s our absolute duty to play it as Coltrane intended, for example in the case of the bass solo in the movement, 'Resolution', it really does not need anything from me (or any musician) to be heard as a great piece of art. The work is awesome and awe-inspiring."

No one had stars in their eyes at this performance, more gripped by a sound in their heads. And certainly as the performance progressed and the solos organically moved into freer space and Youngs increased the rhythmic heat gradually it was the inspiration and motivation in the music that kept the attention of the sizeable audience basking in the Front Room surrounding the stage. It was a big occasion for newcomer Joe Armon-Jones, again his style removed from McCoy Tyner, actually he reminded me more of a young Andrew McCormack to a degree, and no better way to begin the weekend than with the sound of Coltrane in all our hearts and minds. SG

Pic. l-r: Joe Armon-Jones, Gary Crosby, Denys Baptiste and Rod Youngs. Photo: Steve Marchant