In a recent concert review, Mike Westbrook referred to bass player Dave Green as having a “magisterial presence” and it’s noticeable that there are a number of bassists around who could fit this description – John Edwards, Larry Bartley and Alison Rayner spring to mind; differing styles but each having a pivotal position around whom other musicians are given space and opportunity. Another, who visits this country regularly, is Kyle Eastwood, last week playing at Ronnie Scott’s.
The band has been together for some years and their ease of interaction is evident. Right from the outset they slot into an established approach, playing material from new and past releases: In Transit, Rockin’ At Ronnie’s, and trumpeter Quentin Collins’ composition Soulful Times; all with an element of Horace Silver influence, and done with a good deal of panache and flair.
Brandon Allen’s tenor has a big, rounded, straight-ahead sound, but he’s not afraid to take chances, often pushing into areas that give his solos a freer edge. The razor sharp tone of Quentin Collins is forthright, and he uses trills and rapid articulation to great effect. The close unison of these two front horns reflects their years of close collaboration, as does the tightness of the whole outfit.
Andrew McCormack’s piano is never too far away from a soulish groove, but has the capacity to surprise, with highly percussive passages, fast, accurate runs and even a hint of baroque embellishment.
But it’s not all hard-bop – Eastwood’s introductory bowed solo set the scene on the atmospheric Marrakech before he switched to electric bass and a sound resembling a Moroccan gimbre, followed by an appropriately rhythmic solo from Allen’s soprano; an attractive version of Ennio Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso saw the bass controlling the tempo and busy drum support from Chris Higginbottom.
That the audience at Ronnie’s, sometimes not known for its hushed tones, was held in rapt attention, says a lot about the band and the respect the musicians commanded.
The tour de force came in the second half with a version of Mingus’s Boogie Stop Shuffle; the leader showed his mettle with a long, inventive build-up, evoking recollections of past performances here of the great man himself, more years ago than I care to remember. After which the others tore into the piece, with strong ensemble passages and individual contributions throughout, tempo variations and a terrifically vigorous and physical drum solo from Higginbottom.
This is a very good band indeed, well worth keeping an eye out for next time they tour – not only gives enjoyment but you get the impression that they are wholeheartedly enjoying it themselves.
Kyle Eastwood Band, Ronnie Scott’s, London, 24th April 2019