New Generation Jazz: Dave Storey Trio
The Verdict Brighton
Friday 31st May, 2019
Top line drummer Dave Storey, who appeared at The Verdict in March with Duncan Eagles’ Citizen, returned to the venue with his trio on the last Friday of May. Since his previous appearance the bands debut album Bosco had been launched at The Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho and this was the final gig of their fourteen night UK promotional tour. The band, which was originally put together for the purpose of re- appraising standards, has now moved in a far more radical direction which was more than apparent for most of the Brighton date. On double bass was Conor Chaplin who is very well known as a cornerstone player in most of the bands led by trumpeter Laura Jurd, including the highly successful Dinosaur. He has also appeared alongside international stars Marius Neset, George Garzone and Billy Cobham. Completing the line up and the dominant voice in the group was the award winning reed man James Allsopp, who on this occasion played tenor saxophone throughout. He also leads his own group, The Golden Age Of Steam, and has often been heard alongside Ingrid Laubrock, Django Bates and Kit Downes, with whom he has made a significant contribution on bass clarinet.
The line-up of saxophone, bass and drums is still a rare one in jazz and by definition provides a more sparse sound than most audiences are accustomed to, although Sonny Rollins made a huge success of it with his nineteen fifties recordings Way Out West and The Freedom Suite. On the night the Verdict patrons were treated to a mixture of brand new material, lush ballads and three pieces from the debut album. The evening commenced with Big Chicken, the opening track of the recording. This was a rip, roaring high tempo number with surging Coltrane-like tenor and dynamic driving drums, with a calming bass interlude to centre things along the way. In fact, although the musicianship was without doubt of a very high standard, it would be easy to describe some of the other compositions in a similar fashion. These high tempo pieces of new music often only make their full and deserved impact after repeated listening.
In almost stark contrast there were superb re-workings of four great jazz standards. Once in A While was written way back in 1937 by Michael Edwards and Bill Green, here we heard succulent laid back tenor and sensitive brush work from the leader with one of the many fine bass solo passages on the night from Conor Chaplin reinforcing the general feeling that the Irishman has become a real virtuoso on the instrument. Chelsea Bridge is a classic jazz standard from the pen of the great Billy Strayhorn, written on a tour of England with the Ellington orchestra in 1941. Legend has it that Duke was so overawed with the beauty of his compatriot’s new piece that he insisted on seeing the source of Billy’s inspiration. As many fans of Ellingtonia will know Billy’s location at the time was Battersea and not Chelsea! Full reverence on this occasion was given to the piece from James Allsopp’s tenor, very much in the manner that Ben Webster would have done back in the day. John Coltrane recorded a great version of the Jimmy Van Heusen / Johnny Burke tune Like Someone In Love alongside Earl May and Art Taylor in ‘47, so it was very appropriate to hear it again with the same instrumental line-up. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the night, with all members of the trio helping equally to re-construct this fine, melodic piece in their own personal way. It cannot be an easy task to overwrite and re- work a jazz standard to make it feel fresh and relevant. On this occasion Dave Storey’s trio succeeded one hundred percent with the leader’s new composition Joe, based on Joe Henderson’s Blue Note classic Recorda Me from 1963. This was a highly rhythmic interpretation with slight Latin overtones from the drums behind clipped saxophone phrasing as the original composer’s theme teasingly raised its head amidst a fine new statement of this cornerstone post-bop anthem.
There was something for everyone during this gig, from the heady maelstrom of the new compositions and album tracks, to the calming ballad pieces and new approaches to great standards. I am sure that nearly all of The Verdict’s patrons went home happy on the night. One question remained however, for me at least. Had I ever been to another gig where the leader was a drummer and there was not one single drum solo all night long? I think not!
James Allsopp, reeds; Conor Chaplin, double bass; Dave Storey, drums.
Photo of Dave Storey Trio by Anya Arnold.