John Bailey (guitar), Tim France (tenor saxophone), Richard Iles (flugelhorn), Garry Jackson (double bass) & Steve Hanley (drums)
(Review by Russell/Photos courtesy of Mike Tilley.)
Godin Guitars endorsee John Bailey has a nice line in self deprecation. The truth behind song titles – and their meaning, if any – has been exposed by the amiable Leeds College of Music graduate: Google ‘Song Name Generator’, said Bailey. The home page asks an important question: Feeling lazy? Fill entire form with random data. The end result? An entirely random (meaningless) song title!
John Bailey sat behind and to one side of the front line horns. Nylon string guitars lightly amplified, the horns playing acoustically, the bandleader cut a figure of band mate rather than out front, obvious band leader. His music did the talking; challenging compositions, the senior men in the band – Tim France, tenor saxophone and Richard Iles, flugelhorn – fully concentrated on the charts in front of them, the rhythm section more than regulation timekeepers, drummer Steve Hanley especially inventive.
Ted’s Entrance opened the programme. Strength in Numbers followed. The former a tune about Ted the collie (not a Google creation!), can be found on the album Heart Horizons, the latter from the recent release Black Ship Bright Sea. Bailey apologised for not having brought some CDs with him. Perhaps his current preoccupation – being on a fifty-six date nationwide tour with operatic tenor Russell Watson – excuses his somewhat disorganised merchandising operation! Little Bird flew kind of modal (Iles’ flugelhorn) to free, the bass and drums pairing – Garry Jackson and Steve Hanley – excelling. The first set came to an end with Regression. An attentive audience showed its appreciation. A minor reservation, and it is very much minor scale, with horns in full cry it was, at times, difficult to hear the nylon string guitar in the hands of Bailey. When the horns dropped out the accomplished guitarist was heard to best effect, straddling and indeed combining jazz and contemporary classical genres with enviable facility.
Second set: probably randomly generated, nevertheless a good title with which to resume – Positive Thinking. Bassist Garry Jackson’s robust, singing solo set the tone, France and Iles picked up on it with solid statements of their own and the main man, J Bailey, began to open up. A hint of Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia, perhaps Bailey has checked out the Extrapolation period of John McLaughlin.
It’s a Strange World, said Bailey. Strange indeed; a pop-operatic gig with Russell Watson the previous evening at Whitley Bay Playhouse, this Jazz Café gig a welcome change and the very next night back to the world of popular arias at Leeds Grand Theatre. What odds would you offer for the following being true? Bailey introduced Sfumato suggesting it is a term used to describe a painting technique known to scholars of the Italian Renaissance. Correct. Fellow Leeds College of Music alumnus Matt Anderson (tenor saxophone) has a tune of his own (heard at a gig in Newcastle) titled…Sfumato. Leicester City started this season as 5000-1 outsiders to win the Premier League. Two young jazz musicians, both graduates of LCoM, both come up with the same title. What odds would you offer? The erudite Bailey referenced Benjamin Britten, happily talked about another nonsense title – Amoeba Men – and closed the set with Lightning Workshop. John Bailey has assembled a stellar line-up, the presence of Franks and Iles’ an indication of the standing of the young man on the jazz scene. It will be interesting to see where John Bailey goes from here.