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Andy Hague Quintet at The Bronx Bar

Barry Witherden By

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Andy Hague Quintet
Bronx Bar and Restaurant
Teignmouth, Devon
June 7, 2018

After two exotic imports (Sur Ecoute from France and Duski from Wales) Teignmouth Jazz and Blues Club went relatively local for their latest booking... Bristol-based trumpeter Andy Hague. Hague fronts other groups, including medium-sized Afro-Cuban/salsa bands and Silverado, a sextet paying tribute to Horace Silver, but this gig featured his basic quintet, which brilliantly evokes the great days of Blue Note.

The rest of the Quintet comprises Ben Waghorn, Jim Blomfield, Chris Jones and Andy Tween, all of whom are inspired soloists as well as jelling admirably into a dynamic unit that is just as adept at waxing lyrical as at pinning your ears back with razor-sharp neo-hard-bop. Hague's solos are as nicely constructed and cogently developed as his compositions. Waghorn's improvising tends to roam "outside" more, but he never loses sight of the framework tune and chords, and brings it all back home when required.

Hague the composer's admiration for Silver was evident from time to time, with an opening number mixing in a soupcon of Arabic/North African flavouring for good measure, but the influence is far from mere imitation, more a tapping into the gospel spirit associated with the soul jazz offshoot of hard bop that developed in the late 50s. That gospel tinge was especially rich on "Sing It Loud," one of Hague's recent compositions. The first set ended with a ferociously fast "Stepping Down," based on John Coltrane "Giant Steps," but that set had also showcased Hague's more lyrical work on flugelhorn in performances of "Love In Vain" and "In the Bleak Mid-Autumn," which he composed in autumn 2017. The latter was potently atmospheric with a stalking gait that would have made an ideal soundtrack to a film noir sequence of deserted, lamp-lit, rain-washed streets.

The second set began with another boppish Hague original, "Displaced," followed by an outstanding and lovely reading of "The More I See You." Hague again switched to flugelhorn for a sensitive solo and Blomfield's beguiling contribution was one of the highlights of the evening for many listeners. The evening wound up with two more Hague originals, "PeltDown," a tribute to trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and a breath-taking version of regular closer "Lost and Found," leaving the audience fully-satisfied yet wanting more. It's somewhat dispiriting that a band of this calibre has not been able to issue a recording for six years ... the excellent and still-available Cross My Palm (Ooh-Err Records 006)—but at this gig Hague announced he had found a stash of his 1996 album, Portrait of the Artist As an Old Git (Ooh-Err 002), which, despite Hague's self-deprecating comments, is also an exciting and very rewarding listen.

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