Review: Jim Hall/Kenny Wheeler at LJF 2012

Derek Ansell enjoys an evening with two grand old masters of modern jazz, Kenny Wheeler and Jim Hall, the latter adding levity to the proceedings with the comment that it was good to be there . . . "it's good to be anywhere"

The big orchestra that lined up on stage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the last evening of the 2012 London Jazz Festival contained the cream of British jazz musicians. Leader Kenny Wheeler came on stage slowly to a rapturous reception before a note had been played. Trumpeter, composer, bandleader and living legend? Yes, without hesitation.

Jim HallThe music was The Long Waiting, a seemingly simple, straightforward suite of music that had all sorts of complexities lurking under the surface. The different movements had basic enough titles like Canter No 1 or Canter No 6, 7, 8, 9 etc, but the music started up in a slow, measured blue cloud and developed in a leisurely manner from there. The 19 musicians (and that includes Norma Winstone, whose wordless vocals add another explorative instrument to the proceedings) played the ensembles smoothly with the leader's flugelhorn bursting out of the ensemble in spirally sparkling solos that were an integral part of the music. Sterling contributions from John Parricelli, Duncan Lamont, Ray Warleigh, Stan Sulzmann and Julian Siegel punctuated the proceedings with improvised solos perfectly suited to the work as a whole. Pete Churchill conducted vigorously and the work concluded to an even louder and more rapturous burst of applause.

The man who introduced the musicians turned out to be the owner of the voice that launched a thousand Jazz Record Requests on radio, Geoffrey Smith. He reminded us of the accomplishments of master guitarist Jim Hall, before bringing him and his rhythm players on as the last group to play at the 2012 London Jazz Festival. Jim Hall, like Wheeler before him, came on slowly, aided by a stick, but if the years have taken their toll physically there was no audible diminution of the guitar playing. Aided by Steve LaSpina on bass and Anthony Pinciotti on drums, the old master was on good form, joking with the audience that it was good to be there and adding ruefully, "it's good to be anywhere".

He began with a blues, played All The Things You Are, "which is my wife's favourite", and returned to the blues with a 16-bar variety which he called Careful, to remind himself not to slip back into a 12 bar. A "free" piece of improvisation brought LaSpina and Pinciotti into the proceedings more and recalled that very early venture into free form back in 1955 with the Chico Hamilton quintet. The lines were carefully constructed with highly inventive, original introductions, weaving into the main melodies and developing them in a way that had never been heard before. St Thomas was played at a gallop with fresh lines spilling out all over the place and had little to do with the Sonny Rollins version of 1956. It did, however, remind the audience of the strong (and ongoing) connection between Hall and Rollins, who had played the LJF two days before.

Photo by John Watson

Your Comments:

Posted by Helena Kay, 22 November 2012, 19:53 (1 of 1)

Julian Arguelles was on baritone saxophone, not Julian Siegel. Thank you for that correction, Helena. I'll put our reviewer right. - MG
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