I dare say most people can assemble a programme of music to be played at an evening of jazz, but I expect that if you analysed the result, you would find a number of personal favourites by the curator of that programme. It was refreshing then, to listen to Zoltan Sagi, playing clarinet on some numbers and alto on others with a staple diet of New Orleans favourites played in a more contemporary way. Not out and out modern, but certainly more mainstream than would normally have been the case. Suffice it to say that the banjo or tuba were absent from the mix and there was not a washboard in sight! Any preconceptions that you might have had were definitely put away in the drawer marked ‘wait till you hear this and then decide.
Zoltan had produced a list of music that was enjoyed by a sadly smaller audience than was expected, but they did appreciate the ability of four first class musicians. They were no strangers to the tunes or the music and no strangers to the others in the band although you did have the impression that it was the first time they had seen those arrangements. This ‘first time’ did not show itself in the playing, their performances were first class.
The musicians also were no strangers to Severn Jazz as well. Al Gurr played keyboard; James Agg, upright bass and Sticky Wicket was the drummer. They excelled on different arrangements of well known tunes. There was nothing hackneyed about any of it – Basin Street Blues, Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans, we all know them and their titles but there was a certain charm that came from playing it straight and not trying to be too clever.
Zoltan presented the quartet in his usual effortless way and told various stories of some of the tunes and how they had arrived in the jazz repertoire. He varied between clarinet and alto – which because of its size was the subject of an argument. Is it a tenor or an alto saxophone? That was settled in the end. I don’t think any money changed hands, but what did that matter after a superb evening of such great music?