A late morning Jazz session was exactly what I needed to kick off my weekend and it was my first gig since the end of lockdown so I hoped it would be good, the band in question I hadn’t seen before in this set up, though I recognised one player from Band on the Edge who performed at the same venue back in February (doesn’t that seem a long time ago). I wasn’t sure what to expect and spent my walk to the venue trying to think of some pancake jokes I could insert into the review. The venue was the United God Centre on the high street in Shrewsbury and is a reasonably sized place to hold a band, social distancing and limitations of numbers could potentially be an issue but the set up was well organised enough to give plenty of space and create some atmosphere. As before, the venue has a rule of no shoes or have them covered so I made sure I didn’t have an embarrassing pair of socks on. The band was a quartet and I completely failed to get their names, but line up was Reeds, Keys, Bass Guitar and Drums.
The first set opened the reedsman on Tenor Sax with a number with a Latin beat called “La Samba” which must have taken the composer ages to title and was a pleasant gentle number to ease into the set with, the Latin feel was continued in the next number which was an Antonio Carlos Jobim composition called “Wave” which has famously been recorded by Paul Desmond. I much preferred the robust tenor playing of our man here to light and wispy tones of Desmond’s alto playing so that is a definite case of one up for Pancake Band, there was also an extended bass feature on this piece which was akin to Stanley Clarke than Jaco Pastorius. For the next number the tenor was replaced by a flute for a number called “Let’s Go Dancing”, a phrase which I can rest assure you will never pass my lips unless it is announcing this number. For the finale two numbers of the set our leadman bought out an instrument which he had only recently acquired, an EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), an instrument more associated with electric Jazz funk outfits like Steps Ahead and the Brecker Brothers and certainly added a new dynamic to the ensemble, he apologised for any fluffs as he was still getting the hang of the instrument but I like that raw going-for-it approach as it keeps the sound interesting, as Miles said “when you hit a wrong note, it’s the next one which counts”. The two numbers were Killer Joe, a Joe Henderson composition I believe* (and also the name of a Joe Harriett compilation) and Song for Bill Brown, a number completely new to me.
Set 2 opened with our main man returning to the Flute with a number called “Little Sunflower”, a number I annoyingly recognised be can’t for the life of me recall where or when. This was followed by a more bluesy and rompy number (the bands words not mine) called “Friday Night at the Cavinate Club”, which sounds to me like a club where a Deer Hunter might go, this was a good top tapping piece reminiscent of the Jazz Messengers, which naturally had the reedsman return to Tenor Sax for the piece. Next up was the first of two originals for the set, this was written by the pianist and was called “Coltrane, He Was Good in Cracker”, reflected the irritating commentary the uneducated make when you mention Coltrane. Interestingly enough, Robbie Coltrane who played Cracker, took his take name from John Coltrane so there is mini-circle of life going on here. This was followed by piece by Ricky Byro (?) called “Elm” which I is heard as “El” and this was an interesting number, next up was the next original number which was also composed by the band’s pianist. The number was called “Distant Shores” and is not to be mistaken for Simon Park Orchestra number “Distant Hills” which was used on the closing credits of the ITV drama series Crown Court, in fact before it was announced as an original composition it did cross my mind that it *might* have been a mistitled “Distant Hills”. As you might imagine, piece was a very mellow and ambient piece and would be an idle piece to relax with after a long day at work especially with soothing playing on the EWI, and if they decide to revive Crown Court perhaps the Pancake Band should submit the piece as a replacement piece for the closing credits. The final number was an extended piece which was an unusual take on that old classic “Close Your Eyes”, keen to show their versatility ever more the band presented this in the style of with front man returning to the Tenor Sax.
Overall this was a very different gig with a lot more experimentation and playing around with tunes and styles then you might get at Jazz Club 90 and proved to be an ideal way to spend the late part of a Saturday morning with. Hopefully this will become a monthly event at the UGC but with ever changing regulations in regards to the current crisis it will be imperative to keep up the band’s newsfeed on Facebook.
*After a quick bit of research I have found out that the piece was by Benny Golson and Art Farmer.– SJ 13/11/20