It's a cliché of jazz commentary that live is best, yet frequently the recorded evidence of a recalled performance can be disappointing. The impact of atmosphere, personal mood and other extraneous factors in enhancing the enjoyment of a concert can often be overlooked.
When the Sun Comes Out was recorded at the Appleby Jazz Festival in July, 2005. I was lucky enough to be there and was delighted to find this recording lived right up to my pleasant memories. It catches Bobby Wellins' quartet in a relaxed setting, where musicians are given the opportunity to stretch out in substantial sets, without the pressure to clear the stage for a subsequent star name. Listeners might visualise a stereotypically late-night jazz session; it actually took place around midday! Clearly marvellous jazz does not need darkness (or thick smoke) to bring out the highest standards of performance.
The recording opens with "Festival Blues," a nicely loping mid-tempo warmup that quickly takes flight. "Monk's Mood is a gem. After a short theme statement, Wellins explores a lovely melodic line, holding the listener's attention throughout his solo. Both pianist Mark Edwards and bassist Andy Cleyndert contribute their own lyrical improvisations before the return of the theme. "Mad About the Boy has a mid-paced Latin lilt, with Edwards leaping into a forceful initial solo, supported by a constantly shifting backdrop from bass and drums. Following Wellins' beautiful variations, Wells contributes a drum solo packed with interest.
With "When You Wish Upon a Star we're in the world of the '64 Miles Davis Quintet, recorded on My Funny Valentine and Four and More. There's glorious ballad playing from all, but with tempos shifting at different points in the tune, maintaining a constant freshness. Cleyndert and Wells are simply marvellous, never letting the music settle, always keeping the front line challenged. The shorter "Fascinating Rhythm takes the tune at a crisp pace with unusual accents, stabbing piano rocketing Wellins into his most muscular performance of the set. Wells is again outstanding here. The title track brings out that throaty tone for which Wellins is best known. What at first sounds like a ballad soon evolves into a rugged blues, with a remarkable Cleyndert solo at the end.
The high standard of the recording deserves mention. This is one of a growing number being put out by Andrew Cleyndert's Trio label, documenting the current music of players like Wellins, Stan Tracey, Don Weller and Peter King.
Although Wellins has put out some enjoyable discs in recent years, When the Sun Comes Out really does stand out. Those other studio efforts tend to contain more tunes, with less room for development. The chance to explore melodies at length and the presence of a crack band at a festival of admirers has resulted in a superb CD. If you only know Wellins from Under Milk Wood, then check this one out.
Festival Blues; Monk
Bobby Wellins: tenor saxophone; Spike Wells: drums; Mark Edwards: piano; Andrew
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