What is there to say about this band that hasn’t been said before? Every time they appear, they do not fail to please. They set the place alight with music and memories of a sound that can make you believe you are in a different place and at a different time. You can immerse yourself in the smoky club atmosphere of Minton’s or the Hickory House on 52nd Street with a sometimes delicate, sometimes pounding rhythm set up by the likes of Freddie Green, Walter Page and Jo Jones with front line appearances from Lester Young and Buck Clayton. But, back in the world of the conscious and here we are in the middle of Worcestershire and a band of musicians that we are all familiar with and regard in some cases as friends. We’ve seen them all before, sometimes in different settings, but here they are doing more than justice to the classic sound and some of the music of the Basie small bands.
But this is no copycat tribute act. This band can impress in its own right with a mix of music, some which are jazz standards, others which have been written specifically for the band. Roy Sainsbury, whose baby this band is, leads on guitar. He’s a genial leader who fends off some banter from the band, something he does beautifully. It all adds to the entertainment. On Monday, Bryan Corbett played trumpet; Charlie Wright played tenor saxophone. These two are a consummate double act on their own. Mal Garrett was the man who added to that rhythm section sound and kept it going all evening. As always Dave Newton excelled himself on keyboard, not playing with a scarcity of notes a la Bill Basie, but playing in the individual style of Dave Newton which we have come to know and love. On bass, we had Mark Goodchild whose day job, as Roy says, is in the basses of the CBSO. He also has a track record playing jazz and he fitted in wonderfully on Monday and excelled with a few solos.
It wasn’t only a good evening on a jazz level, but it was so nice to be trying to find space, chairs and tables for so many people who came along to hear this superb band. Also we must say thank you to Peter Doran who, as he was celebrating a birthday the following day, sponsored the evening. Monday evening at the Berkeley was definitely a birthday treat for all of us.