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JJ 08/80: Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson at the 100 Club

Forty years ago Peter Vacher applauded the "searing emotionalism" of the blues and bebop altoist. First published in Jazz Journal August 1980

If you know Cleanhead from his hit records you’ll recall that he employs self-mocking humour as a powerful tool, and it’s the combination of wry insight and strutting bravado that makes him such a compelling performer.

He looks sharp, in full command, taking human frailties as his theme and it’s just a touch ironic that his voice, as he discourses on our weaknesses, is so magnificently resonant. He’s emotional in the best sense, soaring and dipping and seemingly capable of bending his vocal line around the beat at will.

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He paraded all his trademark songs, to everyone’s evident satisfaction. But to categorise Vinson as just a blues artist is hardly to do him credit. For, as this two-nighter showed, he’s a rewarding modern jazz alto-saxophonist, keen to stretch himself harmonically in the right company.

Happily, he exulted in the lively support given him by his London rhythm section of John Burch (piano), Lennie Bush (bass) and drummer Bobby Orr, offering original tunes and bebop staples in a very spirited and hard blowing session.

Of course, he’s touched by Charlie Parker’s genius but he’s a bebop authentic himself and a resourceful player in his own right as capable of searing emotionalism as any on the scene.

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