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Review: tribute to make Benny Goodman proud

Source: The Royal Gazette
They wore dark suits, white shirts and red ties reminiscent of jazz players of the 1930s.

The Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre at the Fairmont Southampton was about 90 per cent full. Vibraharp, piano, bass, guitar and drums described a circle in which Julian Bliss, clarinet, and Martin Shaw, trumpet, could enter and exit for their solos; vibraharpist Lewis Wright stood stage right when he wasn’t playing in order for us to be able see the rhythm section, Tim Thornton on bass, guitarist Colin Oxley and drummer Ed Richardson. Pianist Neal Thornton introduced most of the numbers with anecdotes about their historical context, their impact at the time, and the players who interpreted them.

The Julian Bliss Septet is no ordinary septet. All members are master musicians in their own right, either virtuosic or holding professorships in music and performance. Classically trained former child prodigy Julian Bliss, now Britain’s premier clarinettist, shares with Benny Goodman the rare ability to be at home with both classical and jazz repertoires. The evening was largely devoted to the music of the late 1930s, and swing they, and we, did with such numbers as Slipped Disc, Sheikh of Araby, Lazy River, Sweet Georgia Brown, Lady Be Good, Stompin’ at the Savoy, and Sing, Sing, Sing, all delivered with a genuine feel for the “hot” jazz of the time. However, Bliss also forayed into the Latin style with a Mach 3 rendering of Tico, tico no fuba and also the classical with Paganini’s Caprice No 24.

Outstanding solos abounded: Richardson gave us authentic and electrifying drum solos on Georgia Brown, while Oxley recreated Charlie Christian in Rose Room. Wright’s atmospheric Moonglow — the group’s homage to Artie Shaw — and Neal Thornton’s solo in St Louis Blues, incorporating quotes and Jerry Lewis-like smears, had the audience on its feet in a tumult.

The septet obliged us with an appropriate encore and envoy, After You’ve Gone. Benny Goodman would have been proud.

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