Stan Tracey & Keith Tippett

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Stan Tracey Trio:
Stan Tracey (piano)
Andy Cleyndert (bass)
Clark Tracey (drums)

Stan Tracey Octet:
Stan Tracey (piano)
Andy Cleyndert (bass)
Clark Tracey (drums)
Guy Barker (trumpet)
Mark Nightingale (trombone)
Sammy Main (alto saxophone)
Simon Allen & Mornington Locket (tenor saxophones)

T‘n’T:
Stan Tracey & Keith Tippett (pianos)

Stan Tracey Big Band:
Stan Tracey (piano)
Andy Cleyndert (bass)
Clark Tracey (drums)
Guy Barker, Nathan Bray, Mark Armstrong & Henry Lowther (trumpets)
Mark Nightingale (trombone)
Sammy Main (alto saxophone)
Simon Allen & David O’Higgins (tenor saxophone)
Mornington Locket (tenor & soprano saxophones)
Alan Barnes (baritone saxophone)


Reviewed by: Grahame Oakland

Reviewed: 30 January, 2008
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Stan TraceyOctogenarian Stan Tracey quietly enters and it’s straight down to business, an evening of “past, present and future work”. The band launches into a powerful rendition Duke Ellington’s “It don’t mean a thing”, which sets the tone for the evening. Backed by the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Andy Cleyndert and Tracey’s son, Clark, you know the swing is never going to be far away. Tracey settled into the opening number like a pair of comfortable shoes. Taking us through some snappy piano work, he evokes the angular lines of Thelonious Monk and even shades of Bill Evans. This is going to be a special night, the audience-members wishing they’d bought that signed vinyl on sale in the foyer.

After the opening number, it’s time to bring on the rest of the octet and embark on a journey through some of Tracey’s best compositions from his late-‘60s period. These tunes build wonderfully and remind us just why Tracey’s period at the forefront of British jazz was well justified. The octet swings into “Newk’s Fluke” and we’re away again. Never overindulging, Tracey allows ample room for the soloists and, over the next few numbers, we hear some fiery biscuits from altoist Sammy Main and trombonist Mark Nightingale. Continuing with head-bopping Latin number, “The Cuban Connection”, trumpeter Guy Barker really opens up, all the musicians revelling in the opportunities offered in these well-crafted arrangements. The octet is now cooking on all burners and, propelled by the drumming of Clark Tracey, the music remains on full throttle.

The first set culminates with a blistering rendition of “Time Spring” and an incredible tenor passage played in tandem by Mornington Locket and Simon Allen. They build the music to almost bursting point until the rhythm section bring us back to the head, swinging on a characteristic Tracey groove. It’s a big-money finish from the pensioner from St Albans!

Stan TraceyWithout a breath, the concert shifts gears. The octet departs and a second piano wheeled on. Enter Tracey’s collaborator from the 1970s, Keith Tippett. Introduced by Tracey as “one of the great innovators”, Tippett quickly settles down to some left-field improvisation. Born from a tiny phrase from Tracey, the music soon builds into a gargantuan monster of tone and colour. Tippett, who spent time in King Crimson in the 70s, before embarking on his free-jazz odyssey, is reunited with Tracey for the first time in 15 years and it’s clear that the two veterans have lost none of their magic. Employing his characteristic piano rolls, Tippett injects some orchestral alchemy to the proceedings and at one point even uses wooden blocks on the piano’s strings to generate an eerie harpsichord-like effect. It’s a masterful display from two musicians on top of their game.

Tracey admitted that the duo prepared for the gig by “deliberately not rehearsing” – they picked up effortlessly from where they left off. “T‘n’T” is no tea-and-biscuits affair from these old boys, but some wonderful nitro-glycerine-tinged music. Their epic improvisation moves from pin-dropping quietness to auditorium-swelling soundscapes. There was a refreshing amount of humour in some of the passages, with Tracey dropping in some cheeky off-kilter horror-movie piano phrases.After the break, it was back to big-band business, Tracey leading the full ensemble through his groundbreaking album, “Genesis”. These compositions hint at the warmth of Ellington but with that still-swinging quality that graced Stan’s late-60s sides for Columbia, and his landmark “Under Milk Wood” session. Starting off with the laid back “The Beginning”, the ensemble gathered pace through “In the Light”, “The Gathering”, “The Firmament”, “Sun Moon and Stars” and “Feather, Fin and Limb”, the scores expertly executed, the ensemble really breathing life into the “Genesis” suite – some great workouts again and even room for a head-bursting baritone sax solo from Alan Barnes. The set closed with “The Sixth Day” and an exceptional drum solo from Tracey junior, who was voted Ronnie Scott’s ‘drummer of the year’ in 2007. However, the night belonged to Stan.



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