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Bray Jazz Festival 2019

Ian Patterson By

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Scofield rolled the clock back to the mid/late-1990s with the feel-good tunes "Carlos" and "Green Tea," from Groove Elation (Verve Music Group, 1995) and A GoGo (Verve, 1998) respectively, a period when the guitarist was particularly enamored of the organ and the soulful textures it brings. Scofield is arguably at his most exciting, however, when tearing it up on straight-ahead fare, and his searing bebop solo on Charlie Parker's "Steeplechase" inspired similarly heated playing around him, with Clayton switching to piano.

Scofield delved deeper into the blues on "Hangover," with Stewart moving between brushes and sticks as the guitarist steered the tune from gentle balladry into gutsier improvisational terrain with a finely constructed solo. The drummer's own "F U Donald" was more subtly layered than the title suggested, with Scofield roaming freely over insistent, though diverse rhythms that pushed and pulled. Shimmering organ and a gentle rhythmic pulse accompanied Scofield on a tender version of Shania Twain's "You're Still the One." The up-tempo "New Waltzo" trod more familiar ground, somewhere between jazz-funk and straight-ahead, with expansive solos from Scofield, Clayton, and Scofield again, in his signature, gnarly blues vein. An unaccompanied guitar feature of some delicacy wrapped up the set on a meditative note.

A standing ovation brought the musicians back to the stage. "Thank you so much, you're so kind," Scofield said, "not you guys, leaving" he jested, in reference to a few folk exiting the room. "Now our best shit is gonna happen." The quartet's caressing reading of Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke's "But Beautiful" was certainly the most delicate shit of the set, with Scofield and Clayton both quietly compelling. But beautiful indeed.

Lucia Cadotsch Speak Low

The jazz world embraced singer Lucia Cadotsch from the get-go. Her trio's debut album, Speak Low (Enja Records, 2016) won the Echo Jazz Prize for Best Vocalist of the year, and praise for the Berlin-based Swiss singer has been widespread and unanimous. To see Cadotsch as the next big thing in jazz, vocals-wise, however, would be rather reductive, as there are other, equally colorful strings to her bow, as witnessed by the exquisite folk-Americana offering Edda Lou (Enja Records, 2019) with Yellow Bird.

Perhaps the common denominator with both projects is Cadotsch's ability to put a fresh spin on vintage formats. Speak Low's concert at The Well, however, was firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, with Cadotsch backed by Swiss players Petter Eldh on bass and Otis Sandsjö on tenor saxophone. Cadotsch and Eldh's collaboration goes back a decade, and their harmonic symmetry was pronounced throughout. Sandsjo, who hadn't worked with either musicians prior to Speak Low, brought improvisational edge to the music, his unbroken, soft babble of ideas fed by circular breathing. Occasionally, as on Cadotsch's hypnotic interpretation of Nina Simone's "Wild is the Wind," the saxophonist breathed a little fire, with overblowing bringing coarser textures.

Cadotsch, bathed in gentle purple lights, captured the melancholy and fragile beauty of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," while making the song her own, not least for the curiously hypnotic rumblings of saxophone and bass that bled into Duke Ellington's "Azure." It would be hard to imagine a more original interpretation of these Holiday and Ellington compositions, or a more seamless fusion. There was more serene balladry with Jeff Buckley's "Lilac Wine," enlivened by Eldh and Sandsjo's extended improvised dialog, with Eldh then carving out an arresting unaccompanied solo.

A fine trio performance concluded with an inspired pairing of Bob Haggart/Johnny Burke's much covered "What's New?," and an animated trio reading of "There Comes a Time," from The Tony Williams Lifetime. A seductive singer, Cadotsch's real magic lies in her striking trio arrangements, which breathe new life into familiar songs. You got the impression that with this trio Cadotsch could go in practically any direction so wants.

Kenosha Kid

Down on Bray's seafront it was a very different scene. The pubs and bars were packed with weekend revelers and the bar-staff working at a furious pace. Walking into the Martello Hotel, you navigated your way through the throng of young party people and upstairs to the relative sanctuary of the Late Lounge, where Kenosha Kid was about to play.

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