Chris Allard Quartet with
Special Guest Charlie Wood
Sunday, January 8th, 2017
Reviewer: Reg Webb
Chris Allard played at Steve Wright's regular monthly jazz club event, with Memphis-born singer/songwriter/ pianist Charlie Wood appearing as a Special Guest.
I didn't know what this would mean in terms of the gig - such as who played what and when.
In fact, the outcome was the best possible from my point of view, with Charlie Wood appearing as part of the Chris Allard Quartet, while doing a few of his songs as a featured artist.
Chris began with tracks from his current album Invisible Landscape: Critter (dedicated to the pre-natal state of his son), Morphic Resonance (Google this or Rupert Sheldrake if you're interested), Finn (dedicated to the post-natal state - at 3 - of his son) and, later, Let's Get Lost (by Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser), aranged by Charlie Wood for the same album. We also heard material from Jupiter Island.
Also accompanying Chris were Oli Hayhurst on (downright) bass, and Nick Smalley on drums.
All these people play together frequently, and that shows, since there's a lot more involved than simply knowing the notes.
The musicianship was of a consistently high standard, and it would be invidious to single anyone out, and everyone will have their personal subjective preferences.
However, I hope Chris will forgive me if I make an exception to that in the case of Charlie Wood.
For a start, I'm always interested in how people who are used to being the featured person in a band respond to simply being a part of a band.
Having always been a Charlie Wood fan, my estimation of him has risen on this account. He understands accompanying, which Bill Evans said was something he had to learn, and something which should be taken seriously.
Perhaps significantly, Charlie only asked for more piano in his monitor wedge when it came time for him to play his first featured song - No Repose, from the New Souvenirs album.
Charlie's lyrics are based on the principle that, if you're going to have words, make them count. We need our purists who can preserve what went before as a live performance of musical history. Once that is secure, there is room for those who can integrate styles and traditions.
So, in Charlie Wood, we hear Maceo Merryweather and Ray Charles, together with a highly sophisticated rhythmic approach to time signatures in a funk context, and contemporary poetry (see ‘Tube’ lyric as an illustration).
Chris Allard is a musician who brings clarity and a brain to his performance and his compositions. He doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but he clearly has one.
All these players are highly recommended if you get the chance to hear any of them live, and Steve is arranging for Charlie to come back with his own band in October.
Thanks, Steve, for flying the flag of enjoyable excellence, I appreciate it.