Review: Roger Beaujolais at Reading Jazz

Derek Ansell catches vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais at Reading’s Progress Theatre, featuring nods to Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson

The veteran British vibes man played a concert for Reading Jazz at the end of March with Robin Aspland on piano, Simon Thorpe, bass and Winston Clifford on drums. The quartet began with Full House, a Wes Montgomery line that had the leader skipping lightly across the bars of his instrument and setting up a subtle swing with Thorpe and Clifford urging him on.

Beaujolais’s early influences were Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson and he paid tribute to both with Heart Strings, an attractive ballad by the latter and a blues by the former. Beaujolais favours a light sound on the vibes with occasional four-mallet explosions on up-tempo selections. He seemed most at ease on straightforward material such as Admission Impossible, a down-home blues dedicated to "politicians everywhere".

He had no trouble, however, improvising on more complex lines such as Wayne Shorter’s Yes Or No, where the intricate twists and turns of the theme seemed to inspire him to work out some of his most inventive improvised lines. Aspland was a strong support, both as accompanist and soloist and aided stoutly by Thorpe’s no-nonsense bass playing and the swirling polythythms of Clifford. The drummer exercised his solo chops with two long, well-constructed solos, one at the end of each set.

This was yet another strong recital at the small but intimate Progress Theatre for Reading Jazz, the local club that now promotes several music events in and around the town. It brought in an enthusiastic full house. At the end they clapped and stomped their feet in appreciation but there just wasn’t time for an encore, local licensing law imposing a curfew.

Photo by Brian O'Connor

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