Review: Swing Unlimited Jazz Club: Gary Smulyan with the Nigel Price Organ Trio ‘at the Carrington’

New York style ultra smooth jazz came to Swing Unlimited Jazz Club ‘at the Carrington’ last Wednesday, courtesy of Gary Smulyan with the Nigel Price Organ Trio.
As Bobby Darin’s wife, Sandra Dee, says in the movie ‘Beyond the Sea’, “People hear what they see”.  How to turn a comfortable hotel conference room into a swingin’ jazz club?  It’s a miracle that Pat and Catherine and superb stage manager Pete Alcock (and Chris) have achieved at the Carrington House Hotel.  With well laid out stage and state of the art sound system just beautifully put together against a teak backdrop, down to the flickering tea lights and white table cloths, the setting was elegant jazz club to a tee.  Everyone in the audience, spread throughout the large room, was treated not just to the look and atmosphere, but also the best quality sound, wherever they were sitting.  Pete Alcock achieves a technical triumph to match the world class jazz on stage.
Gary Smulyan is a jazz vet’ and much acclaimed, six times Grammy-winning baritone saxophone player.  Those beautiful mellow notes seem effortlessly to spring from his ‘bari’ – a thing of burnished and distressed brass beauty.  It suits Gary’s laid-back, spontaneous playing.  ‘Home on the front porch, with grandad in his rocking chair smoking a pipe listening along, on a sultry late summer’s eve’ .  Together with the Nigel Price Organ Trio – themselves winners of the Parliamentary Jazz Award best ensemble - led by Nigel Price, phenomenal jazz guitarist and Matt Home’s perfect and unobtrusive percussion kept rhythm, tune and time precisely and stylishly.  Final flourish to their jazz gumbo, is Ross Stanley on electronic, twin keyboard organ.  His magnificent playing was a match worthy of this piece of electronic wizardry, adding not only great organ riffs, but also taking care of the bass.
Great uptempo tunes abounded from the kick-off – kick-ass! –  ‘Sonny’, to the top of the show ‘Don’t Look Back’ (Harold Vic).  There were original tunes from Gary like ‘Heavenly Hours’, contemporary jazz showing off the deep voice of his ‘bari’.  Matt rides those cymbals, giving sticks and brushes an equally good work through and Ross’s bass from his organ underscore every chord.
How pretty were all the instruments – and how pretty the playing.  The metallic white drum kit glittered, set off perfectly by Pete Alcock’s luminous lighting.  Standards like ‘Lover Man’ were given a fresh uptempo makeover.  Mancini’s ‘Dreamscope’ was a ballad to delight, as was its equal in the second set, another standard from Hoagy Carmichael ‘Skylark’.
£10 advance tickets for GARY SMULYAN with the NIGEL PRICE ORGAN TRIO on Wednesday 2nd October at SUJC "Jazz at the Carrington" are still available but going fast! You're welcome to pay £14 on the door on the night, but if you want an even bigger bargain, call Catherine on 07771 267445 asap!</p><br /><br />
<p>GARY SMULYAN, baritone sax master, is a 6-time Grammy award winner and 8-time winner of Downbeat Critics' poll. He is known for his work with the Woody Herman Band, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band, Joe Lovano’s Nonet and Dave Holland’s Octet. He will be arriving in the UK in September for a thirteen date tour supported by one of the UK’s most dynamic bands – the Nigel Price Organ Trio.<br /><br /><br />
Nigel Price – Guitar / Ross Stanley – Organ / Matt Home – Drums<br /><br /><br />
The NIGEL PRICE ORGAN TRIO, regulars at Ronnie Scott's, were winners of Ensemble of the Year at the 2010 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. The group will be including music from Smulyan's latest album 'Smul's Paradise' (Capri) and Nigel Price Organ Trio's acclaimed 'Heads & Tales'.<br /><br /><br />
“Smulyan and company succeed on all fronts here.” (Allaboutjazz, on 'Smul's Paradise')<br /><br /><br />
“[They] blaze into the organ trio tradition with fiery purpose.” MOJO</p><br /><br />
<p><br /><br /><br /></p><br /><br />
<p>"Earlier in the evening at Joe's Bar in Summertown, a more explicitly American and straight-grooving approach had been explored by guitarist Nigel Price's trio, with Pete Whittaker on organ and Clark Tracey on drums. Classic hard-bop themes by legends such as guitarist Wes Montgomery got the treatment, but the skilful Price lovingly celebrated Montgomery's languidly bluesy lyricism and breezy swing, and the group heated up this 50 year-old style with an irresistible conviction."<br /><br /><br />
The Guardian, John Fordham</p><br /><br />
<p>"The Nigel Price Trio, working as a unit for the past five years, generates bags of heat and light in this carefully selected and varied programme of material ideally suited to the instrumentation.<br /><br /><br />
Those who think the classic guitar/organ/drums set-up popularised by Jimmy Smith in the 1950s is all soul and sweat should bend an unbiased ear to the admirable musicality of Price and colleagues.<br /><br /><br />
As veteran guitarist Jim Mullen points out in his endorsement of the CD: "Nigel Price more than amply demonstrates his all round skills as a guitarist – great chops, good taste and a great sound – and shows why he and his trio are way up there with the best, not just in the UK but anywhere."<br /><br /><br />
High praise indeed, and fully deserved."<br /><br /><br />
Jazz Journal Review, Mark Gardner
Solos and duets abounded and in ‘Skylark’ we were treated to Gary’s dusty bari – with stops like treasure trove medallians – and Nigel’s gorgeous guitar in perfect syncronisity.  Mustn’t leave out a Nigel Price original ‘All In’ - inspired by the chord changes of ‘Body and Soul’.  Matt started off the gentle tempo on brushes, but by the time we’d had the sweetest guitar solo from Nigel, he’d switched to sticks as the pace reached an uptempo crescendo.
As we reached the de rigeur encore, full of Mancini-esque flourishes to finish, the appreciative audience could have stayed listening to world class jazz from New Yorker Gary Smulyan with the London-based Nigel Price Organ Trio till 3am.  Another great evening for lovers of cool jazz at Swing Unlimited Jazz Club.
Who better to get us in the mood for Count Basie, the epitome of cool, swingin’ jazz,  as the All-stars Swing Unlimited Big Band ‘at the Carrington’ perform their Basie tribute this Wednesday.  Can’t wait…

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