Alex Yellowlees and his band take us back in time to the swinging twenties with a collection of hot club swinging jazz tracks, played with a lightness of touch and a lot of skill. Dressed in classic dark suits against the austere black backdrop of the stage at St. Bride’s, these are musicians who don’t need any gilding to create a night of swinging entertainment.
Each song allows opportunities for the musicians to embark on improvised solos, so that the bandleader never really takes precedence.
Diving straight in with the pacy little Limehouse Blues, we are treated to a feast of jazz classics, played with flair by a band made up of violinist, Yellowlees, guitarists Mike Nisbet and Ged Brockie and Kenny Ellis on double bass. Each song allows opportunities for the musicians to embark on improvised solos, so that the bandleader never really takes precedence. This is emphasised by their positioning in a line, equally spaced. All songs roll along nicely, including two welcome Stevie Wonder numbers, Isn’t She Lovely? and You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. Special mention should go to Ellis who manages to elicit a swinging, light, airy sound from his heavy double bass. His nimble playing is a highlight of the evening. So, too, is What A Wonderful World, which receives sensitive treatment from Yellowlees and unobtrusive backing from the others allowing the melody to shine.
This is intricate, dynamic, complex playing of the highest order. Yellowlees is a gentlemanly host to guide us through, gracious and praising of his fellow musicians and happy to chat a little between songs. The arrangements feel fresh, with some classical and Latin influences cropping up among the jazz, all engendering a sense of not knowing what will come next. An exciting night of top-notch music.