Review: Roughly Smooth, Nick Willshire Quartet, Wendy Street and Karl Charity at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club

Another night of terrific jazz came to Swing Unlimited Jazz Club this week.  It was a roll-call of some of the unsung heros of the club, full of surprises and swingin’ melodies right from the top.

Arriving at the club, it was to the fabulous sounds of amazing young tenor saxophonist Nick Willshire and his quartet.  Colin Willshire on keys, Sy Gorelick stepping in on drums and Will Miller playing a truly funky bass electric guitar.   Hearing these young players getting into the swing and adding their own dash of originality to standards like Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ was refreshing and exciting.  Great to know the jazz torch is being carried across generations.

It was a night to kick back and let the music – and terrific ensemble of players – take over.  Roughly Smooth, headliners, were skilfully led on guitar by John Belben.  His playing really hits the right chord every time.  So generous of Sarah Bolter to kick off duetting with Nick Willshire on their tenor saxophones in an improvised uptempo session, joined by Pat Piero on trumpet adding a few surprises of his own.  Sy Gorelick was in the tempo driving seat adding his percussive flourishes to drums and cymbals by way of sticks, tom toms and brushes and nicely matched by Rob Marshall’s double bass rhythm.  Alistair Hume is a terrific jazz pianist, riding up and down those keys with jazz virtuosity and humour – snug with Sarah’s brilliant sax.  Vocals from Jan Belben, adding true feeling and pathos to standards like Sinatra’s ‘Tender Trap’ (Van Heusen/Cahn) and one of my favourites, of course a Latin bossa/samba, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘So Nice’.

Added to the mix were the mellow tones of Wendy Street scatting superbly.  She ‘duetted’ with Sarah’s fabulous saxophone on Charlie Parker’s ‘Billie’s Bounce’ and joined Faith Bean on ‘Homeward Bound’ – a charming Simon and Garfunkel number.  Wendy adds the beans to the Louisiana jazz gumbo.

Yet more treats in store, as Karl Charity stepped up to add his wonderful ‘velvet fog’ Torme-esque tones to the evening with Dinah Washington’s ‘I’ll Close My Eyes’ (Kaye/Reid) and ‘Stolen Moments’ (Nelson).  Karl charismatically emotes a song and I could listen to his gorgeous tone and vibrato for hours.

The sultry night concluded with a rollicking encore from Roughly Smooth of Ellington’s ’It Don’t Mean a Thing’, sending the audience swingin’ out into the unforgiving streets.  What a terrific allsorts of jazz night at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.


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