Saturday, 6 July 2013

Tommaso Starace - Tender is the Night

Tommaso Starace -
Alto Saxophone
With an intense screwed up face Tomasso Starace wooed us with his tenderness last Thursday (04/07/2013) at the Twickenham Jazz Club. After waiting months to shed Spring's dark clouds the night felt plump and heavy with latent promise. On the eve of the Wimbledon finals and with the smell of cut grass after the first summer sheerings you could quite accurately say we were waiting for something to happen. Yet we teetered on the edge of indifference.

Kelvin Christiane -
Maybe we were the worst sort of audience, a little understrength and occupied with the sensual night outside on the suburban streets. To his credit despite a shaky start, Tommaso Starace didn't despair or cast us aside as lost causes. Lets face it he wasn't going to get in our knickers like Gilad Atzmon the week before, his was a more subtle approach, like the suitor who charms you by having tea with you granny. It is always underrated how far you can get with the power of politeness and attentiveness. Well if you didn't already know you can go straight to the heart.

Chris Nickolls - drums
I don't want you to think Starace is an exponent of limp wristed attrition, his playing was direct not dominating, and fluid not fervent. Again I undersell this charming man, and I have to admit that not only did I underestimate him but his band too. None more so than Chris Nickolls his drummer who I have drawn for many years now. Over this period it has taken some time to appreciate his art but I do believe this is not all my fault. Despite our paths crossing regularly he remains a intensely private man and what little titbits of information he feeds me I gobble up with enthusiasm.

Andy Rock - Jazz Advisor
I do know Nickolls has been working tirelessly with both TJ Johnson and Ola Onabule recently. He's got those deep dark eyes on The Ealing Jazz Festival later this month and The London Jazz Festival further afield. He's part of the mysterious Mark Perry Experiment that has had such a long gestation period for their debut album that the baby, once born, will be a giant! Their CD, Road Ahead, will see its first outing at the LJF itself, featuring no less talents than Gareth Lockrane, Ola Onabule, Sam Leak, Duncan Eagles and Max Luthert. While I was fussing and knotting my brow over our drummer, Andy Rock, our PRS representative simply said " Sharp, driven and propulsive!" Here's a man I listen to, he has better ears than me, in fact he's in the process of applying to be the Jazz Advisor to the PRS Foundation no less.

Roger Beaujolais -
It wasn't just Starace that was courting us this evening but it was he who made the first assault.  His renditions of Michel Petrucciani's 'Looking Up' and 'Brazillian Like' were fast and airy. When he blows hard it is his knees that are the barometer, all musicians have their idiosyncrasies, and it is his 'biscuits' that weave from side to side like a slalom skiers when he's in the flow, or knock one another like two flints eager to ignite. His spark did in fact catch in our unreceptive tinder and we caught alight.

Shane Alessio - Bass
The man who added the oxygen to the night's fire was Roger Beaujolais whose light melodies and rhythm only added to the air of Mediterranean freedom. I must admit when an audience member, who shall remain nameless, shouted "It's Mr Pastry" I was a total blank. I've since found out who Mr Pastry was and I can confirm that Beaujolais has little in common with the bumbling comic. His movement and dexterity was a joy to watch and I wasn't the only person spellbound with his physicality during Horace Silver's 'Nica's Dream'.

Tommaso (left) and Christiane (right)
A new bassist to me, Shane Alessio more than played his part, he was inventive on 'In A Sentimental Mood', throwing in edgy abrasive and distress strokes amongst his fluent swoops. A spicy mix. Lesley Christiane introduced the second set with 'The More I See You' in customary style and her husband Kelvin shone when he took to the stage. His girdle has made all the difference and he was comfortable and expressive on 'Donna Lee' and 'Some Day My Prince Will Come'. 

It was an exchange on the later tune that strongly affected my mood and I believe epitomises the spirit of the evening. Christiane upon finishing his solo took a breather and the hand of Tommaso reached out to him, a sign of affection and admiration, the younger man touched his shoulder. You rarely see Jazzmen touch each other, maybe it is not the done thing, but this sign of tenderness made my knees buckle like the afore mentioned slalomer.  

I was obviously not the only one swept away by the performance of Tommaso Starace and his group, the crowd at the Twickenham Jazz Club stood on their feet and applauded unreservedly upon the finale. We reached out to him in our humble way because his music had touched us with its tender grasp.


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