Review: Alan Barnes/Bruce Adams Quintet

Derek Ansell enjoys the talent and telepathy of the Alan Barnes quintet - Bruce Adams, David Newton, Andrew Cleyndert and Bobby Worth - at the Progress Theatre, Reading

Playing a concert for Jazz In Reading before Christmas, the Barnes/Adams quintet demonstrated a tight togetherness and almost telepathic understanding of what each musician was doing at any given moment. Such strong yet free-flowing integration is rare in bands unless they have worked together for many years and are extremely talented and inventive musicians. Clearly all of this band has the talent, from Alan himself (pictured) and his frequent front-line partner, Bruce Adams, to pianist David Newton, bassist Andrew Cleyndert and drummer Bobby Worth. This all-star lineup played two blistering sets for Jazz in Reading in the small but intimate Progress Theatre. Barnes played baritone sax on his own composition Mr. TC and followed up with a powerful alto sax blast on Cannonball, proving that he is just as competent on alto and bari and, for that matter, tenor, which he also played during this programme. Although he plays hard and fast on much of the material, he is still a lyrical performer and his solos make a good contrast with those of Adams, a brash, forthright trumpeter who plays with a rough, brassy edge and plenty of power.

A slow ballad with Barnes on tenor and Adams muted brought out some of the best qualities of this quintet with warm solo contributions from Dave Newton’s piano and Andy Cleyndert’s powerful bass. Bobby Worth is a subtle, reliable drummer who is never flashy or over-indulgent but can always be relied on to provide a solid rhythmic foundation at all tempi. The band were particularly impressive on Horace Silver’s Quicksilver, a pulsing bop opus played at lightning tempo where Alan’s solo was clear and bright with no loss of fidelity in any note, even at this killing pace. Based on the chords of Lover Come Back To Me, Alan quoted heavily from that source during his solo. The band also proved themselves competent in playing the blues with a neat performance of a piece called Stuffy by Coleman Hawkins and Stuffy Turkey by Thelonious Monk. Same composition but both men claimed to have written it so take your choice! Hollywood Stampede was given a strong workout too and this piece was definitely the work of Hawkins with no cries of authorship from anybody else!

The band played a variety of first-rate bop and blues including a medium-tempo Watermelon Man (composer Herbie Hancock, no other claimants) and finished with a jaunty blues, Motoring Along, which certainly lived up to its name. The band as a whole was as integrated as any I have heard in the past couple of years and in Barnes, Adams and Newton can boast three first-class soloists.

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