1 November 2018

Live Review: Trevor Watts & Veryan Weston at Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival

Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival:

Trevor Watts & Veryan Weston

The Verdict, Brighton

Thursday 4th October, 2018


Brighton’s Alternative Jazz Festival, in its third incarnation this year, kicks off with a raucous exposé of jazz from the distended edges of tradition. This evening’s gig, having swung through the clipped snapshots of In Threads and the sinuous and slinky heads of Entropi, culminates in an all-over-the-map duo from Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston.

Possibly the smartest trick of the evening is Weston’s timbral wandering with his keyboard – providing plenty of traction for Watts to blast off from. There’s nothing of the doctrinaire from either player – while it opens with some well-heeled, open and wild free jazz skronk, there’s a sharp amount of listening and consideration from both camps. At times Weston provides a steady pulse, anchoring some astonishing modal drift from Watts. Elsewhere, both go down-tempo and lyrical, like a spontaneous funereal mist drifting over the stage.

Neither seems to carry any threat of running out of ideas or energy, and there’s a real fizz to their camaraderie – the odd wry side-eye and restrained laughter at times. I say there’s nothing doctrinaire about their playing – among the moments of free squall and turn-on-a-dime reflexive restraint there’s a real sense of two men thoroughly enjoying messing about on stage. Not to say that it’s all flimsy levity but there’s a comforting feeling that both have been around the block long enough to entirely command the stage, and the audience responds in kind.

Considering this is ostensibly ‘free’ there’s a great capacity both have to use & abuse scales, sometimes fracturing them across registers, sometimes playing close n’ tight. A few times tonight Weston was almost sardonically tempering matters with two chord, repetitive figures, mischievous grin as some faintly preposterous sounds came out. The duo’s strength clearly being in able to treat free music to a bit of fun, something too often sorely lacking in what is not the most approachable of areas of jazz. Watts is clearly a master, and unafraid to cut loose, but he’s simultaneously listening intently and respectfully to Weston – any blasting over is quickly curtailed, and besides turning out some great and wildly varied music, there’s an air of sincere respect for the other player from each.

Hats off to Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival for a great evening – precipitating a most welcome injection of some of jazz’s more jagged shapes into the South East.


Kev Nickells

(Photo of Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston by Anya Arnold)

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