The Gareth Lockrane Big Band at Pizza Express Jazz Club 

The flautist squeezed his 19-piece band on to the Dean St stage for a set of rhythmic, richly voiced contemporary jazz

Gareth Lockrane

After a short absence from the Pizza due to the pandemic, forcing them to abandon their 2020 concert, Gareth Lockrane was back for his third appearance at the club with his all-star big band. This sold-out performance was so in demand that there were audience members on the waiting list, which led to the comment by the compère at the beginning: “I’ve priced these tickets too cheaply!”

The opening tune was the title track of his 2017 album Fistfight At The Barndance. This regular favourite for many of Lockrane’s followers saw guitar hero Mike Outram lay down an excellent solo that seemed to echo around the club. No-one quite knew where he was sitting. I think he was tucked behind the piano – as you might expect, the stage was crammed full with a 19-piece band. It’s quite easy to hear Lockrane’s influences in this tune: echoes of Charles Mingus and the shapes and sounds of Eddie Harris, in particular Do Like Eddie from John Scofield’s Hand Jive (Blue Note, 1994).

When you see Lockrane live, you don’t see one flute but the entire family. The crowd were treated to a rare opportunity to witness the bass flute in top gear as it featured on his tune Memories In Widescreen. Up next was Dark Swinger, a ferociously upbeat piece where we heard a brilliant piano solo from Ross Stanley reminiscent of McCoy Tyner. What came next was a stellar solo from Lockrane who even managed to cue the saxophone backings by pointing at his back whilst continuing to shred.

The second set began with a world première of Lockrane’s latest composition which he more-or-less named on the spot as Subterrain Mashup. A brief announcement followed, speculating on a new album, likely in the spring. The afternoon was capped off with what was described as some “badass” triangle skills on Stutterfunk, another tune from Fistfight. It was only a matter of time before Lockrane let loose and gave us a glimpse of flutter tonguing on the flute before opening up a trading solo with Tom Smith on baritone saxophone.

Since studying with Lockrane at music college, I have always been captivated by his sound and ability. This band are well worth seeing if you have the chance.

Gareth Lockrane Big Band, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, 17 October 2021