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Review: Chris Gumbley & Anything Goes and Blast Off at Wade Street Church

Jazz in all of its disparate genres was played to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience when saxophonist Chris Gumbley and his ensemble Anything Goes joined local jazz collective Blast Off at Lichfield’s Wade Street Church.

Chris Gumbley and Anything Goes

Chris Gumbley and Anything Goes

Chris Gumbley on saxophones and clarinet, bassist and vocalist Nicola Farnon, accordionist Karen Street and Fred T Baker on guitars and basses played a wide selection of jazz standards, classical music, improvisations and inventive soundscapes.

Their numbers were elongated studies in sound and technique, with Fred T Baker’s Life Samba – originally a guitar solo – being given a new treatment with an ensemble sound, while Paradise Circus was a brooding study for saxophone. Paul Desmond’s Take Five had a completely new arrangement to Dave Brubeck’s original recording, with the accordion adding a new twist to this familiar jazz standard.

Beautiful Dreams was a showcase for the dark toned bass of Nicola Farnon, with her melodic voice adding a lot to the sound. The following number, Peggy Lee’s Fever was also a solo showcase for Farnon’s talent.

The music of the Beatles is fast becoming a favourite of jazz musicians, and the Indian inflections of Norwegian Wood were well delivered by the ensemble. An improvised piece featuring fretless bass, looping pedals, and the talents of Fred T Baker was well received, even though the feedback and heavy metal noises he produced would have annoyed any jazz purists in attendance.

The set closed with the ensemble playing of Four Brothers, which was a showcase for the soprano saxophone of Chris Gumbley and the scat singing of Nicola Farnon.

The second half of the concert was by local ensemble Blast Off, led by composer and bassist Nick Dewhurst. The group, consisting of multiple guitars, saxophones, tubas, drums, flutes and piano played a number of original pieces, as well as more meditative pieces that allowed for textural and tonal colours to come through in the music.

Two originals, Blast Off and Boulevard Cruiser, featured piano and saxophone solos, while the standard Autumn Leaves showed the ensemble off to best effect, as did In The Meantime, a modal exploration of musical space.

The funkier side of the repertoire was provided by Charlie Parker’s Little Suede Shoes, Trains by Steps Ahead, and Herbie Hancock’s Water Melon Man.

A roof raising, concert ending version of Pick Up The Pieces by the Average White Band showed the full talent of the ensemble to best effect.

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