Review: Dominic Galea Quintet

Pianist Dominic Galea and his quintet delight Jim Whitman with a rare UK appearance at Wakefield Jazz, filled with substance and depth

Once a protégé of Stan Tracey and now a musician of considerable standing, Maltese pianist Dominic Galea (pictured right) is making some rare UK appearances and it was a delight to see him and his quintet in Wakefield. Star billing should also be accorded to his compositions, which stand at the intersections of lyrical and romantic - a truly inviting and spacious arena for keenly attuned and able improvising musicians.

On this late May evening Martin Shaw (trumpet, pictured below left) and Nadim Teimoori (tenor sax) responded accordingly with commanding and varied solo turns. Nadim had a particularly strong line in working a solo across the registers of his instrument in such a way that they were as musically compelling as they were technically accomplished. Martin - who featured largely on flugelhorn in the second set - could turn from bluesy expressiveness to Lee Morgan like attack to tender ballad work. These two frontmen could approach their solos with stylistic independence but still maintain the integrity of the numbers and of the group sound.

Mark Lewandowski’s bass playing was outstanding and his solos were musical showpieces, deeply thoughtful and cleanly articulated, adding musical depth to the quintet’s exploration of the tunes.

There can’t be much new to say about Clark Tracey’s drumming: a musician of his standing and capability can respond to any setting. He was certainly in his element here, pushing everything along but - as those familiar with his playing will attest - with a subtlety and responsiveness that is a sign of careful listening as well as formidable technique. And like his fellow band members he appeared to be having a ball.

Dominic Galea demonstrated a range of piano styles each of which would have made a show on their own. But for all the sparkle of his solo runs this was a quintet performance; and some of his best playing was dedicated to the band sound which gave the evening an unusual degree of substance and depth. His accompaniments to the front-line unison playing and to solos was a masterful demonstration of acute listening, clever timing and musical resourcefulness.

There was nothing in these two sets that was the least nostalgic or retro - (a Latin take on Body And Soul anyone?) - but for sheer dynamism and swing the evening was much as if we had been transported back decades to a classic Blue Note session. Everyone has an idea of what constitutes a jazz “golden era” but the beauty of a live performance is that there’s never a shortage of golden moments - as this performance amply demonstrated. Thanks to Wakefield Jazz for a fine evening.

Photos by Brian Payne

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