JJ 08/79: Hammersmith and Fulham Jazz Festival

First published in Jazz Journal August 1979, a report on the Sunday night of a weekend festival organised by the Jazz Centre Society and the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

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Perhaps the most exciting performance of the day was that of guitarist Keith Rowe and drummer Eddie Prevost. Music of appalling originality, their set was introduced with wry humour as ‘the slightly alternative part of the festival’

Sunday’s all day ‘jazz marathon’ was a near perfect illustration of just how diversified is the music produced today under that all-enveloping term ‘jazz’. Performances at the town hall were run often simultaneously in two auditoriums (one large, one small) and varying in style from the exhilarating freedom of the Prevost/Rowe duo, through the sophisticated fusion of Dave Liebman and Gary Burton groups to the post-bop of the Guy Barker Quintet; the only elements of consistency being the high level of musicianship and the generally good sound quality.

Perhaps the most exciting performance of the day was ironically the one drawing the smallest audience, that of guitarist Keith Rowe and drummer Eddie Prevost. Music of appalling originality, their set was introduced with wry humour as “the slightly alternative part of the festival’. Rowe’s guitar playing encompassed the full resources and idiosyncrasies of the electric instrument, utilising a whole battery of effects with perfect control and integrity, always working in sympathy and symmetry to Prevost’s percussion.

Also in the small hall was a solo piano set by Frank Roberts (late of Isotope and Ronnie Scott’s Quartet) a rather uneven performance ranging from convincing melodic lyricism to a rather turgid technical display in pseudo-Cecil Taylor styling. His performance was certainly enjoyable, not least because of one amusing moment when after a violent keyboard run he hastily whipped out his pocket watch to see how much time he had left to ‘fill in’.

One of the festival’s strongest attractions was the British debut appearance by the new Dave Liebman Quintet, featuring such fine players as Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino and guitarist John Scofield

One of the festival’s strongest attractions was the British debut appearance by the new Dave Liebman Quintet, featuring such fine players as Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino and guitarist John Scofield. Ron McClure was highly proficient on both electric and acoustic basses and Adam Nussbaum was featured on percussion. All the arrangements were strong, leaving ample room for improvisation, and the performance was proof of just how satisfying electric jazz can be when played by musicians of this stature. A complete success.

The Gary Burton Quartet completed the evening in a set which featured another Japanese trumpeter, Tiger Okashi. Burton’s music – an intelligent blend of jazz and rock – is both highly accessible and satisfying but the compositional repertoire (by Carla Bley, Mike Gibbs, S. Swallow and C. Corea) has now been drawn upon so much that some of the music sounded a little tired. Chip Jackson ( a replacement for Steve Swallow) proved to be an excellent bassist with strong solos on several numbers and by the end of the performance the audience had been totally seduced by Burton’s vibes virtuosity. His solo feature was a dazzling combination of lyricism and emotive warmth; his improvisations always melodic and technically awesome.
Matthew Bateson