Vibraphonist Nat Steele embarks on a UK-wide 17-date tour next month in homage to the classic 1956 album Sonny Rollins And The Modern Jazz Quartet, with NYC tenor-saxophone luminary Grant Stewart subbing for Rollins. Stewart will play alongside Steele’s now well-established MJQ quartet, featuring Gabriel Latchin on piano, Dario di Lecce on bass and Steve Brown on drums.
Stewart, a broad-toned player strongly influenced by both Rollins and Dexter Gordon, is regarded as one of the leading proponents of hard-bop tenor today, although as yet he has only performed a few times in the UK. He won a Downbeat award eight years in a row and has released 16 albums as leader. He plays and tours regularly all over the States, Canada, Asia and Europe.
“Grant comes out of Rollins but what he’s done is to use that as a starting point and turn it into his own thing”, says Steele. “The inventiveness and creativity he displays in his improvisation is breathtaking. I’ve been a big fan of his for years, and always had it in mind that I’d like to play with him at some point”.
Steele’s band finally got the opportunity when Grant did a gig with them at BopFest (part of the London Jazz Festival) in 2018, sparking an immediate musical connection that provided inspiration for this tour. Joanne Shurvell (Forbes Magazine) described that gig as “easily one of the top gigs of the [LJF]”.
The Steele quartet with Grant Stewart can be seen here:
The 17-date tour takes place 4-18 February, taking in venues through Surrey and London, the Midlands (including a “Jazz Mass” at Lincoln Cathedral), the North, Wales, the East Coast and finally landing back in London.
Nat’s recently released debut album Portrait Of The MJQ received powerful endorsements from the jazz and national press, including four stars in Jazz Journal, where Bruce Lindsay praised the band for “projecting good humour and enjoyment through every track”. The album also received five stars from BBC Music Magazine (“Jazz Choice” of the month), and four stars from the Observer and Jazzwise magazine.
It’s likely this excursion, focusing once again on swinging bebop and straight-ahead jazz, will deliver equally satisfactory results. The tour, made possible through a grant from Arts Council England, runs through February 2020 and calls at:
Tue 4th Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking
Wed 5th Public saxophone workshop, LCCM (London) 5-7pm
Wed 5th Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London (11pm)
Thu 6th Folkestone Jazz Club, Folkestone
Fri 7th Royal Festival Hall Foyer, London South Bank (1pm)
Fri 7th Steyning Jazz Club, Steyning (8pm)
Sat 8th Lincoln JazzPAC, Lincoln
Sun 9th Lincoln Cathedral Jazz Mass(10.15am)
Sun 9th Peggy’s Skylight Jazz Club, Nottingham (6pm)
Mon 10th Severn Jazz, Worcester
Tue 11th Theatr Clwyd, North Wales Jazz
Wed 12 Concorde Club, Eastleigh
Thur 13 Shepperton Jazz Club, Shepperton
Fri 14 private house concert, Manchester (Matyas Gayer instead of Latchin)
Sat 15 Bear Club, Luton
Sun 16th Cramphorn Theatre, Chemlsford (12.15pm)
Mon 17th The Oxford Tavern, Kentish Town (London)
Tue 18th Fleet Jazz at the Harlington, Fleet (Marianne Wyndham instead of di Lecce)
This article was prepared with the assistance of the artist.