Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Jay Phelps at the Harrow Arts Centre

Barry Witherden By

Sign in to view read count
Jay Phelps
Harrow Arts Centre
Hatch End, London
July 7, 2017

Harrovians don't know what they're missing. The Harrow Arts Centre, tucked away in Hatch End off the teeming Uxbridge Road in London's north-western suburb, has an adventurous booking policy—most such enterprises seem unwilling to recognise any jazz other than trad or dinner-jazz—but whenever I have been there the audience has never exceeded 50. In an area that includes a large South Asian community this was especially disappointing when Jesse Bannister presented his gorgeous and mesmerising melding of jazz and Indian classical music there. The space was again less than half-full for this gig by trumpeter Jay Phelps's quartet... given Phelps's impressive cv, a disheartening indication of the marginal status of the mainstream of jazz in the UK... but the musicians gave their all and the audience was properly appreciative.

Most of the concert consisted of Phelps's originals. These are engaging and nicely enough put together to hold the attention. The band played well on all of them, but on this occasion it was the standards, such as "My Shining Hour" and Monk's "We See," that prompted the most fiery and inventive improvisations.

The influence of Clifford Brown, one of the early inspirations for Phelps, is discernible, but he has his own distinctive musical personality which comes across strongly in his writing and singing: several of his compositions have lyrics which he sings as the theme statement before launching into his solo. Like many of his generation, Phelps regularly mixes (or "dilutes" in the view of purists) the jazz with elements from other genres, including hip-hop, soul and so-called World music.

Phelps proudly declares his mixed-race heritage, and opened the first set with "Everyone's Ethnic," a lithe line with some interesting twists and turns, backed with Caribbean-style rhythms. He connects with the audience through amiable chats between numbers as well as through his appealing playing. "Amphitrite's Bounty" further confirmed his knack for tunes that are catchy without being clichéd, for solos that can be smooth without being superficial, and for diverting anecdotes that throw light on the compositions. Rick Simpson provided solid, funky comping and several involving solos spiced with various striking tonal effects on electric keyboard. This was the penultimate gig with the quartet for the outstanding bassist, Mark Lewandowski, who was soon leaving to work at Juilliard.

At the time of writing Phelps is in negotiation with a record label, but his current album, Free As The Birds, is a self-issued limited edition. One of the tracks, "Angel," has been released as a single.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory Live Reviews We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory
by Josef Woodard
Published: December 16, 2017
Read We Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews We Jazz Festival 2017
by Anthony Shaw
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017 Live Reviews Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Jazztopad Festival 2017 Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "John Beasley’s Monk’estra At SFJAZZ" Live Reviews John Beasley’s Monk’estra At SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: November 12, 2017
Read "Wayne Shorter Quartet at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Wayne Shorter Quartet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Jazztopad Festival 2017" Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Crispell-Fonda-Sorgen Trio Live at The Falcon" Live Reviews Crispell-Fonda-Sorgen Trio Live at The Falcon
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 29, 2017
Read "Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium" Live Reviews Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: September 16, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!