Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock
+ Michael Spearman Trio
Sunday, November 19th, 2017
Reviewer: Reg Webb
I remember this gig as if it were only two weeks ago.
But seriously, I hadn't heard Michael Spearman play for many years, and things sound much more organised in Spearman land than I recall, supported by an excellent bass player and drummer - both of whom, Michael told me, are committed to promoting his music on their gigs, rather than just playing "tunes we like", which most of us do.
On first hearing, the music sounded rather too much on one level dynamically - a very good level, but rather like a single composition in several parts.
In general, this was a gig without PA reinforcement, and everyone involved seemed reluctant to use the one mic available for announcements; a good purist position, but not helpful to deaf gits like me, sitting further back in the auditorium.
Moving to Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock, unamplified presentation of their music suited them very well, although it was difficult for me to hear what they were saying about the tunes (does the Arts Centre have an induction loop?).
Messrs Smith & Kellock concentrated on their very musical and accessible duo repertoire, playing well-known tunes with such style and control that anyone who might start out wishing to criticise anyone who would play
Moonlight Serenade in public would, I think, be quickly silenced by how well they did it. That was certainly true for me.
For his first tune, Tommy Smith came in from the back of the auditorium, making the one nod in the direction of his Embodying The Light - a dedication to John Coltrane album, with an unaccompanied version of Naima, which blew me away.
This is the biggest unamplified saxophone sound I've ever heard at the Arts Centre, and Tommy Smith was instantly defined as a world class exponent of the tenor saxophone.
This was very smart psychologically since, in listening to the more populist repertoire which was to follow, the audience was always aware of who they were listening to, and the sheer breadth of Tommy's ability to cover so many techniques on his instrument - historic and contemporary - was thrown into sharp relief.
What a fine piano player Brian Kellock is. For some reason, he sounded nervous on their first tune (speeding up), but everything quickly calmed down. Piano players who can cope with modern jazz piano and stride are quite rare.
All in all, a fine gig, and thank you Steve and the team for putting it on.
In future, maybe make sure that the contributors' announcements can be heard clearly in this reverberant acoustic.
Two guitarists on the immediate horizon and, as I usually say, we're lucky to have access to so much great music, and so many great musicians here in Colchester.