July’s visitors to Ronnie Scott’s were the Shelly Manne Sextet, a group of young players led by the doyen of West Coast percussionists, Shelly Manne.
Time has done nothing to blunt this excellent drummer’s skill and, with the new group, he has moved away from the style normally associated with the Californian seaboard. His drumming has always been an intuitive talent and, perhaps due to this, he seems at home in the near hard bop role he now chooses.
Tenor saxophonist John Gross is a comparatively anonymous player in a mid-Trane bag but trumpeter Gary Barone, pianist Mike Wofford and bassist Roland Haynes are fine young jazz musicians. Barone, restricted to flugelhorn all evening by an accident to his trumpet, was further incapacitated by a sore lip. Nevertheless, he revealed himself to be a lyrical player of the Randy Brecker type and a staunch leader of the ensemble.
Wofford vacillated between electric piano and the normal instrument and showed himself to be an inventive player. Newcomer to the group Haynes could also become a name worth noting – endowed with a supple feeling for swing, his strong pizzicato lines added colour both to the solo roster and the group sound.
This is the combo found currently at the leader’s Manne Hole club and it has been, together, except for the odd personnel change, for over a year. Their policy is hardly modern but, urged by Manne’s aggressive drumming, they provided a very musical evening without straining for effect. Sharing the bill was the diminutive Elaine Delmar, as attractive in appearance as she is professional in approach.