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Live From Birmingham: The Sonics, Otis Gibbs, George Huxley & John Altman

Martin Longley By

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The first set trawled through a selection of originals and arrangements of non-obvious tunes, whilst the second opened up to a jam session vibration with members of The People's Orchestra, a local community collective who were hosting the event. This latter half was much looser, utilising numbers such as "C-Jam Blues" and "Take The A Train" as vehicles for extended blowing and dialogues between the soloists. Altman's soprano lines were precise, cutting and labyrinthine, his experience outside the jazz world adding stylistic shapes that tended to make him stand slightly outside the music, looking inside from a variegated perspective. The repertoire was at once mainstream and off-kilter, mostly in the choice of material and delivery. Altman has a yen for samba perversions, each set closing with bobbing transmogrifications of Eric Idle's "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" and the theme tune to the old I Love Lucy television show. These were unpredictable highlights of the evening, genuinely subverting musical expectations, and providing the assembled with a jaunty step as they filed out of the theatre.

Photo Credit: Merri L. Sutton

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