Sean Gibb’s Fervour @ Riverside, Stratford-upon-Avon

Sean Gibb’s Fervour ‘Taking Flight’ album and gig review (9 May 2018 at Riverside, Stratford-upon-Avon)

The best and arguably only perk of running a UK jazz club is the plethora of talent that performs every fortnight. As part of Stratford Jazz’s programme of bi-monthly events we had Sean Gibb’s band Fervour visit us as part of an Arts Council funded UK tour. We had previously had the pleasure of witnessing Sean in his personally formed Birmingham Jazz Orchestra in Dec 2016. The review of Tom Haines’ live recorded album from that very night can be read here.

In May 2018, Fervour played a stunning set of music in a stunning setting of Warwickshire beauty at Riverside, Stratford-upon-Avon. On the top floor of the timber building overlooking the Welcombe hills and the river Avon, we listened as Sean Gibbs, Ben Lee, Andy Bunting, Nick Jurd and Euan Palmer (all Birmingham conservatoire alumni) performed tracks from the debut album Taking Flight.

The misguided assumptions of Sean’s small stature and boyish looks were soon blown away with his huge sound, mature performance and kind demeanour. He invited the audience into the music with softly spoken microphone announcements and explanations of the inspiration behind tracks. These often included friendships and the sheer joy of life.

The music was authentic and delved into several genres. I was surprised that a young modern jazz band had such a nostalgic sound. Sean’s muted blues trumpet and luscious flugelhorn playing was certainly referencing jazz giants of old. As did Ben Lee’s blues steeped guitar. It was enjoyable to listen to him really dig into the blues and offer the edgier side of the jazz guitar. His tone switched from raucous blues with slight distortion to sweet, soft, bebop fuelled licks. The pairing of Ben and Sean as frontmen really worked and they both seemed to graciously switch gear between Roots music and more harmonically sophisticated jazz.

A stand out player was Andy Bunting. Not only was he incredibly inventive with his voicings but the love of playing and performance energy seemed to transfer to the audience. He sold every solo and each piano feature was a chance to move to a different musical realm.

Sean’s original music in the album is inspired. He takes influences from the great trumpet players of yesteryear and merges them into a convincing interpretation. Mixing the teachings of the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Clark Terry, Lee Morgan and performing with a love of historical context similar to Wynton Marsalis. He also has the accuracy and technical know-how to be hotly on Marsalis’ heels. You can tell that he is used to the disciplined setting of an orchestra as he doesn’t miss a note but it’s nice to hear him relax into the small ensemble setting and have more time to explore lines on his horn.

We have 1960’s inspired tunes like Go On Then, the New Orleans rhythmic gumbo of Cheer Up Old Bean, Adieu – a Memphis delta blues, the ballad with double time sections: Well Kept Secrets (which features a sensitively played solo by Nick Jurd) and my personal favourite: the energetic, modal and progressive title track of the album, Taking Flight. This album track makes full use of the acoustic scope at Sean’s chosen recording venue, Real World Studios – set in the Wiltsure countryside and belonging to Peter Gabriel. The band really does ‘Take Flight’ both live and when listening back to the album. After Sean and the band have thrown around some frantic exchanges in 6 time, they trade with Euan Palmer and he majestically fills the 4 bar gaps.

The album is a remarkable debut from a young talent. The live show was encored by Sean’s favourite Bird tune ‘Moose the Mooche’. He sealed the deal, proving that he and the band are just as capable playing straight ahead bop. An impressive performance from a fresh and talented band. Not a scratching together of capable musicians – a proper band!

Jay Riley