Performers: Alexander Bone Trio
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
The Richmond Jazz Festival fills the Georgian Theatre Royal for three nights. A Grade 1 listed building that first opened to the public in 1788 might seem an odd setting for a jazz concert, but in fact, it provides a superbly intimate setting for small group jazz, with a surprisingly large capacity (214 slightly cramped patrons) for such a tiny auditorium.
The festival’s headline act for Saturdaywas experienced singer/pianist Ian Shaw, but both the other two nights showed a commitment to young talent from the area. The opening concert, in fact, was of both local and national interest, with saxophonist Alexander Bone from nearby Barnard Castle having made a huge impact in his teenage years (he is now just 20) as the first winner of the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2014. Since then, he has performed at last year’s Proms in the Park, worked with Kylie Minogue and played as many jazz festivals as he can fit in with his studies at the Royal Academy of Music.
In an excellent start to the festival, Alexander, playing alto sax throughout, was joined by two equally accomplished players, Toby Comeau on piano and Joe Lee on bass, both long-term colleagues of Alexander from their days at Chetham’s School and now studying at the Guildhall School of Music. All three displayed an enviable certainty and distinctive musical personalities in a programme that ranged from wistfully melodic versions of ballad standards to funky grooves and electronic wizardry, with nicely judged, often witty, use of loops, echo effects and pre-set percussion patterns.
Compositions by Alexander and Toby rubbed shoulders with highly original takes on pop tunes, standards and the occasional jazz classic, John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” receiving an unusually slow treatment, with Comeau’s delicacy of touch combining with Lee’s spare bass figures to create a wonderful sense of space. That was the first number where Comeau switched to grand piano from his usual keyboard. Midway through the second half, he was back on the grand for a delicately improvised Autumn Leaves, with Bone sounding for all the world like Paul Desmond, the alto star of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. From there on in, the electronics kicked in, the music became funkier and more insistent. Finally, the trio faced the prospect of an unexpected encore, the only time in the evening when their inexperience in planning a programme showed. After a debate between themselves and with the audience, they wisely decided not to try to top what had gone before and sent us into the night with an introspective Summertime, wisps of phrases from all three gently and instinctively integrated.
This was an impressive and highly enjoyable concert, with the trio’s relaxed understanding, evident enjoyment of the music and occasional flashes of musical humour making it a lot more fun than two hours in the company of some of our more earnest young cutting edge musicians.
Reviewed on 8 September2016 | Image: Contributed