Wellins: pale, interesting and in Eastbourne

Bobby WellinsBobby Wellins, pale, interesting and a national treasure, brought his world class mainstream sound to the mini Eastbourne Underground Theatre (27 January) and smiled only occasionally - while his audience sat happily transfixed through a programme of classic standards.

Is there a tenor sax playing in these islands today who tells the story, who chooses one note – or none – where two might do? 

From a spritely but thoughtful Sometimes I’m Happy ("Just sometimes," he confided in announcing the tune) to a mellow In A Sentimental Mood, this gentle man held a capacity multi-age all-ticket attendance in his hands.

Pianist Andrea Pozza, Genoa-born, has played with stars  such as Chet Baker, Lee Konitz and Harry Edison, and he was a revelation – a status shared by Mark Taylor on drums, fresh from work with Monty Alexander in New York and a master of light, shade and irrepressible swing.

Andrew Cleyndert on bass – Bobby said "He looks after me" – showed why he is at the top of his game when the trio excelled  in Strayhorn’s Lush Life and Isfahan with piano oh-so very elegant.

On A Clear Day, a tenor and piano duo, demonstrated just how a lyrical Wellins can capture the mood of the composition. Masterful.

With Cleyndert and Taylor around (and incidentally with a masterclass by drummer Dave Ohm and bassist Mark Hodgson seen just before Christmas on stage with astounding piano vocalist Dena DeRose at Pizza Express, Dean Street) home here in the UK is where great rhythm sections are alive and literally  kicking.

Southern enthusiasts should note the Eastbourne Underground venue – recently Stan Tracey was here and loved it.

Alan Toft

Photo by Andy Cleyndert
from Trio Records, whose CD Time Gentlemen, Please prompted a cover feature in Jazz Journal, February 2011 excerpted here.

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