Steve Fishwick Quartet @ NAC Wolverhampton

Steve Fishwick Quartet
Newhampton Arts Centre
8th February 2019

Words/Photos: Garry Corbett

Adaptation to circumstances and reinvention are a necessity in the world of jazz. It might be termed Improvisation. Tonight it seems it was happening on several levels. This was the first in a new series of concerts promoted by the former Wolverhampton Jazz @ the Arena organisation now reborn in a new venue as Jazz at NAC (Newhampton Arts Centre). Originally billed as the Steve Fishwick/Alex Garnett Quartet, tonight’s line up was also subject to change and reinvention. Due to circumstances unexplained Alex Garnett was absent but in his place and at short notice alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky literally jetted in from Paris to stand in for the missing co-leader. The quartet was complete and ready to turn on the power.

From the explosive opener The Wrath of Khan it was clear we were in for a special evening. It swung like a pendulum fuelled on BeBop setting the precedent for the rest of the two sets. We were firmly in Blue Note territory which was pretty much where we stayed for the rest of the evening. From a play on the Star Trek film title we stuck with the Sci-Fi allusions. Marshian Timeslip followed. Fishwick explained that the title was inspired by his love of the writings of author Philip K Dick and the compositions of Warne Marsh. Based on the changes to All the Things You Are it featured the first of a number of beautifully crafted bass solos from Oli Hayhurst and some fine ensemble playing before the number came to a sudden full stop that seemed to hang in the air for a moment before the applause thundered in.

Theloniuos Monk’s, Ask Me Now, featured some lovely staccato saxophone from Baevsky followed by one of many shiny bright sounding solos from Fishwick. Much has been said about his clear strong sound, all of it borne out by this evening’s performance. Here time shifted behind him as a bass solo from Hayhurst followed with complimentary brushwork from the second Fishwick on board, Steve’s twin brother Matt on drums. Here was a piano-less quartet nailing a composition by one of the music’s finest pianist/composers. In fact at the end of the second set their encore did it again with the Sonny Clark classic Cool Struttin’. Proving again that lack of a piano need be no obstacle. It struck me during the Monk number that had the ghost of Kerouac or Ginsberg strayed into the room those long gone Beat poets wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable with what they were hearing, music firmly rooted in the BeBop era but with a strong contemporary sound from the musicians which kept it alive and relevant.

The spirit of the absent Alex Garnett was also present by way of his compositions. First up being the Latin flavoured Rio de Rum which featured Fishwick on Flugelhorn, bringing out the best mellow sound that the instrument has to offer. He really is a most lyrical player with a beautiful tone.

The first set closer saw rapid fire new life breathed into that old warhorse After You’ve Gone which Fishwick described as “a burner” in his introduction. Dmitry Baevsky’s chattering rapid fire sax solo threw in a few notes of that weird ‘Horse Laugh’ sound that I associate with Ornette Coleman. It was curiously like a portend of the shape of jazz to come. Matt Fishwick gave us a drum solo with rapid snare and cymbal work which was entirely ‘of the period’ in terms of the number being played.

Parker’s Marmaduke opened the second set though his ghost had been haunting the room all evening.
Alex Garnett was once again with us in spirit too with his composition dedicated to the late Ronnie Scott, 52nd. Street Dream, which featured some lovely close harmony work from Fishwick and Baevsky which really brought out the lyricism of this fine group of musicians.

The evening was brought to a close with Dizzy Gillespie’s Woody ‘n You. The encore was the aforementioned Cool Struttin’. It was wonderful to hear new life breathed into such classic compositions and to hear them played with fire and true conviction.

A final note too about the excellent venue. NAC offered great atmosphere, friendly staff, superb sound and much appreciated by this photographer/reviewer great lighting!

Before, during the break and at the end of the evening we heard some classic vinyl from their resident DJ too. A great evening of jazz.

Future concerts planned at JAZZ at NAC.

Thursday 7th March a rare chance to see a solo piano performance from Zoe Rahman
Friday 3rd May Kit Downes
Friday 14th June Ian Ballamy

Astral Travelling Since 1993