St. Georges, Bristol
Last night I dreamed I went to Monterey again. There was the beach, the pier, the Pacific, the view, and that road leading south, climbing and curling out of town, hugging the cliff-top, impossibly cool, impossibly glamorous, a road to dream of. I got there via a concert venue half way up Park Street in Bristol and a jazz gig. Courtney Pine was in town, ahead of his new album, just playin’. The merch table had the new CD from his astonishingly good keyboard player, Nikki Yeoh, but no new Pine material – it’s not out yet. So this was a blast gig, played mostly for the fun of it, a live rehearsal if you like, at one of his favourite venues.
In fact, we learned that Nikki Yeoh had just volunteered to sit in at the last moment, with no rehearsal, and winged it, magnificently. But that’s the thing; these people can do that. Chops. They never play the same song the same way twice. Ever. We got a couple of standards; a Herbie Hancock funk, and with Omar on board, a sublime There’s Nothing Like This amongst others. Mostly we got new, and it was glorious. We went to South America a couple of times, we chilled in Caribbean heat, and that cool Californian vibe washed over us time and again.
About three numbers in Courtney reached for the bass flute, blew up a riff, and off we went. I’m not sure how long that final solo lasted, but it took us to Jupiter and back. Hushed and in the moment, poised at the start of it like a man at the top of a huge staircase, he was looking for the best route down, the most graceful descent into the architecture. Once he found his line he became a surfer, up on a wave, balancing the powerful rise of the blue green wall beneath his feet against the gravity of his own mass, toeing down the nose of the board, speeding and falling into flurries of notes that cascaded like clear water peeling back over the curl of the surf. Over and over I felt the adrenaline rush of the ocean’s power, and we sped towards an intensity that felt as if the ride would close out, but then I felt him shift his weight and slow, turning his progress back against the flow and accelerating once again back along the wave, back towards the clean water and out into the peaceful deeps once more. Unbelievable, just amazing.
With Omar back on stage for the whole of the second half, the mood got funkier and skronkier, and it swung, it really swung. There was, indeed, much dancing in the aisles. Alongside Courtney, Omar and Nikki Yeoh we were blessed with Robert Fordjour’s joyful and inventive drumming, and next to him Vidal Montgomery, grinning hugely as his double bass loped and snapped, the two of them driving things along with wit and a huge sense of fun.
Two hours transported to so many places, yet it flashed past like we’d just been waiting for the bus on a sunny afternoon. I’ve no idea where they are playing next, or even if they are; I bought our tickets back in November the moment I knew they were coming to Brizzle, but do go see them if you can, they were enthralling last night.
Henry and I. The Bristol Courtney Massive, out in numbers. The St. George’s scarf and cords crew, out in numbers. Hipsters, largely absent; ha! what do they know, the fools.
It made me think..
We need more Jazz. Especially jazz this good. Oh, and look out for the new Courtney Pine CD when it’s released sometime soon; it’s a belter, I heard most of it last night.