Eddie Henderson Quartet @ Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham Conservatoire

Eddie Henderson Quartet
Eastside Jazz Club
Birmingham Conservatoire
30th April 2018

Eddie Henderson – Trumpet
Bruce Barth – Piano
Arnie Somogyi – Bass
Stephen Keogh – Drums

What a joy it was to hear Eddie Henderson. The fact that he is halfway through a European tour at the age of 77 is remarkable enough. That he is still playing the trumpet, the most demanding of instruments, with the energy, vibrancy, intensity and creativity that he displayed tonight is astounding. Not often you get to see one of the remaining jazz legends so on top of their game, but he was totally running things here.

The opener, the title track from his quintet album from 1990, ‘Think On Me’, set the mood for the first set, expansive, moody, swinging with just a touch of Latin thrown in and plenty of space for some fierce soloing from Eddie and pianist Bruce Barth. Barth was the other star of the show, you can hear plenty of McCoy and Herbie in his playing, but he emulates rather than imitates. His solo on Arnie Somogyi’s ‘Joe’s Blow’ was powerful and dominating but not at the expense of the rest of the rhythm section, with Arnie and drummer Stephen Keogh happy and confident enough, to take a backseat for most of the evening.

The first part of the concert was recorded for broadcast for Radio 3’s ‘J to Z’ show, so we were treated to a couple of short interludes with Eddie talking to presenter Julian Joseph about playing with Mwandishi, early encounters with Louis Armstrong, upsetting Miles and being the U.S’s first, and I would guess only, national figure skating champion.

The warmth of his conversation came across beautifully through his horn. He recounted his memories of playing with Kenny Barron in his intro to ‘Phantoms’, a dark and funky original by the pianist. The simple structure of the tune allowed Eddie to play a fantastic, hypnotic muted solo and it was here he sounded most like his mentor, Miles.

And then the highlight of the evening, an up-tempo and uplifting take on Woody Shaw’s ‘Moontrane’. How lucky we were to hear one of the great standards of modern jazz played by one of its masters. It closed the set and was met with a thunderous ovation from the audience. The second set couldn’t quite match the first, probably because the band wore themselves out signing autographs and talking to audience members during the break. They took a chorus to get going on ‘Surrey With The Fringe On Top’, before slipping into a heavy fusion groove on ‘Dreams’. Here they focused on the melody, turning the moody atmosphere of the original into a very pretty modal waltz. Duke Pearson’s beautiful ballad ‘After the Rain’ was, well… beautiful with bass and drums providing peaceful and controlled accompaniment to the two soloists. The band finished with a down-home version of ‘Toys’, that really bought out the blues feeling of Herbie’s original.

Credit to The Birmingham Conservatoire for hosting the concert and for making the tickets so affordable at only £8.00. The new Eastside Jazz Club opened in September and is probably the best place to hear jazz in Birmingham. The 80-seater venue is warm and intimate, with great sightlines, atmospheric low-level lighting and fantastic acoustics. It’s a place that plays host to a vast number of young and exciting musicians not least at next month’s ‘Exit Velocity Festival’, where students and graduates from the universities Jazz Department will be performing alongside established artists including Clark Tracey and Kit Downes.

The First Set and Interview with Eddie Henderson will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on the ‘J to Z’ programme on Saturday 12th May at 5.00pm. Full details of the Exit Velocity Festival are available at www.bcu.ac.uk/concerts and via Twitter @BirmConsJazz and @JazzTromboneUK
More Reviews, Pics and musings on Jazz, Soul, Brazilian and Latin music can be found on my Instagram Page @nicklovesjazz

Nick Schlittner

Astral Travelling Since 1993