CAMBRIDGE MODERN JAZZ AT CUC WINE BAR,GRADUATE CENTRE
Pianist Jonathan Gee is a musical legend.. His hands are a blur on the piano and he has the kind of control over his instrument that makes it clear he could cheerfully conduct a chatty conversation whilst hammering out ‘Night and Day’ from beginning to end. Apparently he once played a day-long marathon of the works of Thelonius Monk without a break.
Then he went on holiday - and came home as an Impresario. In Italy he had discovered musicians so magical, he had to have them in his band. And when they failed to turn up he tried harder and got more persuasive until they changed their minds. Effectively, he kidnapped them from their native home and brought them over here to tour. So complete with super sharp Armani-style suits (no sign of a polo neck jumper anywhere) and a warm-hearted engagement with the audience, they make music to fall in love with. Or to simply fall in love. Among inspired compositions of their own they play Beatles’ adaptations “Who knew Paul McCartney could be jazzified?’ asked Jonathan after a bitter-sweet rendition of ‘Michelle’? Somehow the three blokes from Bari bring a brio to their school of jazz sometimes lost In the intellectual insularity of bravura solos and coloratura riffs. Italians had words for all this long before us. These musicians were keen to communicate. In fact human contact is clearly their forte.
Gaetano Partipilo plays the saxophone with a spine tingling passion . In his luscious Italian voice, he told us what makes a sax a success,. It’s the ‘cane’ in the reed. If it’s poor, it doesn’t matter how expensive the instrument is, it won’t work. His cane or reed or both was clearly not rubbish and in such fine fettle, the audience was at near -swoon level when his dreamy tones wafted out of it. Tingle factor? Plus 10.
Giuseppe Bassi coincidentally on Bass is it a family tradition? had a style so ferocious he told us he had worn away his finger ends
“ When I went to the Bank in Bari, they have a touch –screen entrance. It didn’t recognize my prints any more. They’d worn away. Luckily the Bank Manager was at the window and waved to me. He let me in”
And he’s a humanitarian. Bassi had spent some weeks in Japan’s stricken Fukishima, playing bass on the beach “When you see the children, you cannot turn away from them” and truly believes in the power of the artist to heal the woes of the world. He is bringing a group of radio-actively damaged Japanese children over to Europe to show them his own country. He played his composition ‘ I know you know” about his tragically lost lover. It was to be a prayer from us all. A jazz prayer. You don’t get many of those in Cambridge.
Drummer Fabio Accardi was inventively blithe with his range of timpani. Ultra modern percussive sounds emitted from a range of devices stacked before him. Yet he had interpreted Paul McCartney’s ‘Here There and Everywhere’ so sublimely you simply wanted it to go on and on and not stop
“I am Drummer!’ he cried to the rapturous applause at the end.
The line-up at Cambridge Modern Jazz’s new venue was well worth all Jonathan Gee’s effort in corralling them from their sunny Italian homeland to a chilly tour of Britain. These players are superlative. They speak the international language of jazz with the kind of arrangements so superbly blended that the result is nothing short of miraculous. And they play a precarious line between smooth listenable music to dream to, and the strand of modified cacophony so much beloved of jazz fiends everywhere. The result is an evening of near- rapturous success achieved entirely through technical skill. Gaetonao’s own compositon Luminescence was the zenith of these
All this as we sat in the warm summer sunshine shining on us through the windows of that temple of brutalist building, the Graduate Centre. Its ground floor is now a wonderful wine bar where the Cambridge Modern Jazz Club have set up .What’s not to like? The subtle lighting makes everyone look at least ten years younger (alone a reason to go there ) fabulous comfortable large seats in 70s pistachio and lemon, loads of multi-coloured atmos spots and a perfect acoustic designed by Cambridge University’s erstwhile Professor of Architecture.
This is the start of the Modern Jazz season from the Cambridge Wine Bar, Brett Turner’s super successful venture. To follow is a heavily booked Blue Note session .
The place, the choice and the music deserve a welter of attention. But the Italian Job will be a hard act to follow.