Clark Tracey with Alan Barnes, Pizza Express, London

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Billed under The Blue Note Years and with the subtitle “Inspired by the rhythms of Art Blakey” this gig featured probably six of the finest players in the UK – Steve Melling, piano, Alec Dankworth, bass, Clark Tracey, drums, Mark Armstrong, trumpet, Alan Barnes, alto sax, and Brandon Allen, tenor sax.

Every number was one featured originally by drummer Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. The tunes featured were Echo Road, Blues March, The Drum Thunder Suite (which featured mallets rather than sticks), On The Ginza, Lester Left Town and Slide Hampton’s New World, for which Clark Tracey transcribed Art Blakey’s original solo and replicated it note for note.

In virtually every number each of the six players was allotted a full chorus as a solo and then traded fours. This made for an exciting sound and although the room was barely three-quarters full everyone appeared to be caught up in the experience.

Late in the second set the front line performed a medley, one ballad each in turn, beginning with Mark Armstrong’s My Funny Valentine, segueing into Brandon Allen’s But Beautiful, and concluding with Alan Barnes’s You Don’t Know What Love Is.

My Funny Valentine is rather owned by Chet Baker and a trumpeter taking it on is not unlike an actor playing Hamlet and having to deal with John Barrymore’s reading of To Be, Or Not To Be. Wisely, Mark Armstrong took the dynamic route.

Clark Tracey with Alan Barnes. Pizza Express, Dean Street, W1. Tuesday, 24 September 2019.