Review: Andy Hague Quintet – cd tour at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club

Looking back on life from the summit of age, people apparently regret most not what they have done, rather what they have not done.  So it was that Wednesday last, the day after Shakespeare’s birthday (or St George’s Day, if you prefer) I was reminded that “All the world’s a stage,” and wandered over to the hidden gem Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.  Live on stage, world-class jazz awaited with ace trumpetter, composer and band-leader Andy Hague and his Quintet, currently on tour promoting their new album ‘Cross My Palm’.  Dates at the Great Western in St Ives and Carlton, Teignmouth amongst other venues had preceded this gig.

What a coincidence for me.  Seaside farce is still playing in Teignmouth , according to the Quintet’s utterly brilliant pianist, Jim Bloomfield, as it was when I took my first professional steps on stage there playing in Ray Cooney’s ‘Move Over Mrs Markham’.  Our headliner was local BBC radio and TV presenter Douglas Mounce who, after having me as a guest on his show to promote a summer cabaret season at Ladrum Bay, recommended that the director audition me.  I got the part and would roar over to Teignmouth on my newly acquired powerful motorbike nightly during the summer run of the play.  After the season finished, it was back up to London and my agent:  ”Three flights up on the Charing Cross Road, and never a job at the top of them”!  (Name the cult British movie I get that quote from…).  And Dougie has just sadly passed away, going no doubt to the great Globe in the sky.

Andy Hague and his Quintet are players of extraordinary talent and quality.  They treated the audience to an evening of high energy classic jazz, mixing Andy’s brilliant original compositions from the album with superb covers like the rousing opener, Dexter Gordon’s ‘Hanky Panky’.  Uptempo tunes abounded.  We were left in no doubt as to the top class playing and pace with the first original number ‘Green Leaf’.  Will Harris brings forth gorgeous rhythm from his double bass swings and grooves with his instrument, almost riding it like a bronco, working in tandem with brilliant drummer Mark Whitlan.  Mark simply doesn’t sit still.  Keeping up the astounding and varied percussion – brushes one moment, sticks the next, he dances with his drum kit.  His energy is contagious.  All the band keep up.  They play like a snug fusion of their instruments.  Ben Waghorn’s simply perfect tenor saxophone swoops up and down.  I’m sure the audience was left gasping by his husky and rich playing.  Andy’s trumpet is intriguingly played sligthly off-centre, both physically and also in his compositions, such as in ‘Lost and Found’ (a terrific uptempo finisher – he knows how to pace an evening!).

Self-deprecatingly he calls some of his tunes ‘tributes’ to the music of various heros, like ‘For Kenny Dorham’ and the album title track ‘Cross My Palm’.  These numbers may be, as Andy says, a nod to his musical heroes like Horace Silver, but with their sheer musicality, originality and quality, what a tribute!  Jim Blomfield adds to the Quintet what must be some of the best keyboard playing on the jazz circuit anywhere today.  Matching the energy levels of the rest of the band, his nimble and charged fingers vie on the keyboard for every last note.  And the riffs he produces are scintillating, melodious and pure jumping joy.  Jim plays every style, here some rag-time, there some Latin, elsewhere pure swing.  His playing is stupendously energetic and he wrings emotion from his keys, using classic piano and Rhodes organ voices and adding the occasional wang where needed.  Jim’s personality is nicely laid back, whether playing sweet piano on slower ballad like Tranquil Moment, or with trumpet and sax when the whole band were almost delicately highlighting the brilliant drums solo offered by Mark on ‘Lost and Found’.

World class jazz comes again to Westbourne courtesy of Andy Hague and his incomparable (did I hear others in the audience using that word?  Sure did…) Quintet at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.  It seems to be jazz Mecca.  Or Heaven.  Or ‘the Globe in the sky’.   Well, as they say, life’s not a rehearsal, so better live now and get the show on the road.  See you next week (God or Allah or whoever willing) for more superb jazz and the GOJO big band.  They’ve a tough act to follow…

Ok jazz lovers, whatever you do don't miss tomorrow (Wednesday 24th) at SUJC with the @[1509373618:2048:Andy Hague] Quartet - doors open 7.30, support on from 8, jazz "supergroup" (Independent on Sunday) on 8.30pm - get here early to get a good seat!<br /><br /><br />
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