Review: Clark Tracey Quintet, Reading

Derek Ansell enjoys an evening of perfectly programmed jazz from Tracey’s youthful quintet, all capped by a stamping and roaring call for an encore

You might think that Clark Tracey had raided the school playgrounds and rest rooms in the music conservatoires, so young are the members of his current quintet. Henry Armburg-Jennings on trumpet and flugel is the oldest, both in years and experience, with his NYJO credentials and recent work in the clubs. Harry Bolt on piano is the youngest with two years in music school still to complete at this writing. Chris Maddock on alto sax is no greybeard, except in the way he plays his instrument - like a veteran! Daniel Cassimir on bass rounds out the line-up - another musician who is young in years but sounds as though he’s been around forever.

At the Progress Theatre in Reading, Clark led from the front, so to speak, drumming from the back but spurring his men on at all times and driving the rhythm section to keep it thrusting forward constantly and at all different tempi. The band began with a crisp, rocking version of One For Daddy-O, which Clark said was a coincidence but most likely for Stan, whom we sadly lost a month or so ago. The piece is a basic minor blues, put together in the Van Gelder studios in 1958 by Cannonball Adderley and Miles but it carries the essence of everything good and worth listening to in modern jazz and blues. Sterling solos here from Armburg-Jennings and Maddock with Bolt contributing flowing chords and the rhythm pulsating along nicely. They followed up with an up-tempo, swinging Bolivia (by Cedar Walton) and a charge through Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice. Then we heard a lively and well-paced reading of Victor Feldman’s Seven Steps To Heaven.

The programme included originals by the leader, notably Rim Clicker, which had Clark doing exactly what it says on the tin and a very fast piece that kept everybody on their toes for several minutes. The balance was just right and this is important. There were plenty of good jazz standards and classics to stimulate and hold the attention of an audience; too often people are subjected to a programme of originals that make little sense, are unmemorable and only serve to feed the ego of the composer. It’s OK for musicians to just play for themselves if that’s what they want but if they wish to communicate to the audience and help keep jazz alive and kicking, they should study Clark Tracey’s selection and performance at the Progress. The audience was enjoying it so much that they stamped and roared for an encore and the band responded with another classic blues, Freddie Freeloader, which Clark said was by “Miles Davis, a trumpet player”. Yeah right, like Shakespeare was a bit of a playwright?

Photo by Brian Payne

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