Gary Crosby’s Groundation et al – A treat and a half @ The Cockpit Theatre – London
As part of the marvellous “Jazz in the Round” as hosted by Jez Nelson.
Tonight we shall feast on Samuel Eagles Quartet, Rowland Sutherland and Gary Crosby OBE with his super talented Groundation in the guise of Nathaniel Facey on alto saxophone, Moses Boyd on drums and Shirley Tetteh on guitar.
Picture the scene: a very small theatre venue with its stage in the middle where one could almost touch the musician and all the instruments, where the acoustic is just right and where, just because the treats are not enough, its resident artist, Gina Southgate, paints the scene live whilst the music flows.
Samuel Eagles Quartet open the show. The line up is: Samuel Eagles on saxophone, Ralph Wyld on vibes, Fergus Ireland on double bass and Eric Ford on drums.
It is good to watch the young musicians in action at such a small venue because one can notice all the concentration and feelings that are being mixed whilst playing the compositions from the new album “New Beginnings”. All four so young and yet it is so refreshing to see such marvellous approach to what promises to be a fantastic night of music.
Samuel Eagles on sax is swift, firm and a very confident player and leader of the band. Ralph Wyld on vibes, his masterful technique is pure delight to watch, he creates wonderful musical pictures of a slightly delicate nature at times ready to be metamorphosed into bigger creatures thanks to Fergus Ireland on double bass. His concentration is second to none. It is beautiful to see how each note is plucked out his bass with great care. His eyes never look up, he is in his zone. Eric Ford’s drumming keeps the momentum going.
An incredible quartet who can and will go far.
Change of scenery and yet another treat: Mr Rowland Sutherland enters the stage, relaxed and looking confident, a modern flute in hand, back from a recent trip in Japan, studying the beautiful art of the shakuhachi (the Japanese bamboo flute with only four holes).
And master it he does well. There are techniques to be observed, like the “flutter tongue”, but what strikes me most during Rowland’s performance is the sheer stillness of the air, one could hear one’s thoughts move through the head: this music is full of promise and full of scare at the same time.
Phantasmagorical yet so subtle one wants to dive into those notes. Rowland’s flute playing is unique. Whether the music is used in meditation or not, I cannot help but think it is also soul enriching.
The cherry on the cake. Time for the final act of the evening. Gary Crosby and its Groundation.
Jez Nelson picks a gentleman from the crowd who happens to be the jazz journalist Kevin Le Gendre. He is asked to say a few words on Gary and his phenomenal work so far.
Some of those words are: “Exemplary, key member of the Jazz Warriors, nurturing force, inspirational”.
The starts, and it’s worth mentioning here that each member has composed its own piece as played then by the whole band, a clever way of presenting a composition.
There is artistry and spontaneity mixed with eclectic touches, like for example in “Liver Quiver” as composed by Moses Boyd.
But it is the wicked sound of the alto saxophone of Mr Facey that gets the buzz going. There is such hard passion in his playing, it leaves one breathless…
These four know how to play together, the photo I have chosen to represent the band says it all: quiet almost contemplative concentration with a vivid passion running in the background.
The last piece of the evening, “Anansi”, a mix of Jamaican, Senegalese and New Orleans sounds is just a reminder of Gary Crosby’s ability to bring such great talents together.
Jazz in the round and round and round. Always!