Webb spinning

Thursday, 20th January — By Robert Ryan

Quintet Blue

Quintet Blue – Alex Webb is on piano duty with the band at Pizza Express Soho on February 1.
His latest album
British Standard Time launches at Hampstead Jazz Club on January 28

PIANIST Alex Webb is one of the hardest working jazz musicians in London, playing in several ensembles as well as regularly staging shows such as Jazz at Café Society and Charlie Parker on Dial and recording and performing with the likes of David McAlmont and China Moses.

His latest project is the British Standard Time album. This is his vision of treating songs written by British writers, from jazz to out-and-out pop, with the respect – and malleability – accorded to the Great American Songbook, with a quartet of our best singers and a band made up of stellar UK players, including Tony Kofi on soprano, alto and baritone and Leo Richardson on tenor and flute. And, by and large, he pulls it off with aplomb.

Rod Temperton’s George Benson hit Give Me The Night, with vocals by soulman Tony Momrelle, swings fast and hard, propelled and decorated by Andy Davies’s trumpet. Luca Manning is breathy and flirty on Dankworth’s Let’s Slip Away and manages to make Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human a swinging, sympathetic plea for understanding (listen for Nathaniel Cross’s trombone solo – and then check out his The Description is Not the Described EP).

And Jo Harrop, who as we noted in an earlier column, is certainly having a moment in the jazz sun with her latest album The Heart Wants, successfully tackles John Martyn, Lionel Bart and, possibly most difficult of all, Amy Winehouse on Love is A Losing Game. But then that’s the kind of latter-day torch song Harrop excels at live.

Even if you aren’t sure about any one song, another of Webb’s deft arrangements quickly heaves into view to move things along. He is bringing his concept, if not exactly the same band, to Hampstead Jazz Club on Friday January 28, with the wonderful Carroll Thompson and Freddie Benedict on vocal duties, for the official album launch, sales of which help support the club’s musicians.
See https://hampsteadjazzclub.com/whats-on/british-standard-time-with-alex-webb-and-carroll-thompson/

If you can’t make that, the same show travels south of the river to Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec on February 4.  www.toulouselautrec.co.uk/event/british-standard-time-album-launch-ft-carroll-thompson-and-freddie-benedict/

In between those two (I told you he was hard working), on February 1, Webb is on piano duty at the Pizza Express Soho with a different band. Quintet Blue is designed to showcase “jukebox jazz” from the 1950s and 60s, with tunes by the likes Ahmed Jamal, Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery, with a dash of the late Charlie Haden’s film noir-ish Quartet West. The quintet features top-flight tenor titan Denys Baptiste and the estimable Nigel Price on guitar. The latter’s tribute to Wes Montgomery (Wes Reimagined) is a fine album, well worth investigating if you enjoy classic jazz guitar with a modern twist.  www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/quintet-blue

Barry Green

A quick nod to Barry Green, another pianist who works the town, with the likes of vocalist Ian Shaw (he’ll be at the Pizza Express Soho with the singer, alongside the aforementioned saxman Tony Kofi, on January 25 as part of a week-long Shawfest) and his own trios. On Wednesday 26 Green has two shows at The Vortex in Dalston. He’s got with him one vet, one tyro – Dave Green on bass, who has a pedigree that includes playing with Sonny Rollins, Ben Webster and his much-missed pal Charlie Watts’ bands, and Sam Braysher, an up-and-coming altoist. Tickets: https://www.vortexjazz.co.uk

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