Concert Review – Steve Ajao Quartet and The Walsall Jazz Orchestra

Concert Review – Steve Ajao Quartet/The Walsall Jazz Orchestra

Reviewed by: Ben Macnair
Photos: Keith Howes

Gratuitous Sax was the order of the day when two critically acclaimed Jazz Ensembles played at Lichfield Guildhall.

Steve Ajao, a well-known figure on the local music scene is probably better known as a Blues guitarist and singer, but he leads his Jazz quartet on saxophone. With Tim Amman on piano and a rhythm section of Miles Levin (drums) and Simon Smith (double bass), the quartet played a number of more complicated jazz pieces that allowed for lengthy and virtuoso soloing from all four musicians.

The set ranged from a sturdy reading of Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop number ‘A Night in Tunisia’ to the ballad ‘The Things we did last summer’ and the bluesy inflections of Charlie Parker’s ‘Chi-Chi’.

Ajao swapped to tenor sax for the feel good swing of Dexter Gordon’s ‘Cheesecake’ whilst ‘Embraceable you’ was a study in delicacy.

After the break, The Walsall Jazz Orchestra took to the stage, featuring the cream of local jazz talent and, from SAQ, Tim Amman as pianist and composer.

The set opened with the complex time signatures and chords of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Children of the Night’ whilst the tuneful refrain of Horace Silver’s ‘Song for my father’ allowed for tight ensemble playing and some muscular soloing Sam Rogers on tenor sax.

Pat Metheny’s ‘Better Days Ahead’ was another exercise in ensemble playing; featuring new piano sounds and a guitar solo that brought a sculptured feel to the piece. The 70’s pop of ‘Where is the Love?’ was a duet for saxophones.

Two of Tim Amman’s compositions featured in the set. The warm ‘brass band’ overture of ‘Now you’re getting it’ gave way to musical moods of a completely different form and texture. ‘Timeless’ was another highly original composition that started as a duet for drums and Nick Durham’s trumpet before the warm woodwind and brass sections created a soundscape of stunning aural beauty and invention.

The last number of the night was Steely Dan’s ‘Peg’ which with its warm brass interjections, and funk beat was a perfect ending for this concert of high quality musicianship. Both bands are well worth catching live, and often perform in the local area.

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