Killer Shrimp’s last album, ‘Sincerely Whatever’, took on the blues-infused hard bop of the 1940s and 50s, only to scamper off down all manner of delightful jitties of genre, with inflections of drum ‘n’ bass, lyrical ballads and loping funk. Largely showcasing this material tonight, Killer Shrimp’s opener boded well: an angular, impressionistic double bass solo from Mark Hodgson, a taught, old-school drum solo in the vein of Charlie Rouse or Philly Joe Jones from Alan Coster, and glorious horn harmonies from Damon Brown’s trumpet and Ed Jones’ tenor sax. The augers soon proved to be spot on.
From the moment they swung into this untitled blues piece, road-tested tonight on the goodly chin-fiddling jazz fans of Arnold, the tight, intimate ensemble playing of Killer Shrimp hit me, like a very welcome, pleasant punch to the appreciation centre of the brain. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised; they did win a ‘Best Jazz Ensemble’ award in 2007 after all. Then again, they were without their regular drummer, replaced tonight by the increasingly brilliant Alan Coster. To change your line-up, and yet retain an almost Fortean understanding and ‘togetherness’ is something only the finest musicians are capable of.
Saxophonist Ed Jones announced that, since his last visit to the Bonington theatre, he has been married and divorced. I think he should have made that married twice, judging by his highly fecund musical relationship with trumpeter Damon Brown. All evening their horn lines interwove, gelled and melded, like the voices of an old couple singing together in their living room, after fifty years of harmonious marriage. Damon in particular explores his instrument to the full, issuing forth growls, glissandi, slurs and staccato bursts, and this jagged brass brashness found beautiful balance in the warm-toned lush lyricism of Ed’s sax.
Next was My Deposit, a sprightly number with fluid cascades of molten brass from Damon, tirelessly inventive bass from Mark, and zippy, agitating drums from Alan, whose hell-for-leather drum solo I can only describe as scrotum-tighteningly exciting. With a deep appreciation of dynamics, they moved as one with great cohesion – echoing each others’ licks and chops. I don’t know quite why I recoursed to so much anthropomorphism of solos in my notes, but I seemed to think that the bass solo recalled “the deep, rich, woody timbre of a comforting old man”.
Named after a Danish beach, Marielyst oozed the sophisticated jazz fusion sound of the 1970s CTI label, with only the drum ‘n’ bass drumming to betray its contemporary composition. Calling on styles as disparate as rock and d&b, Alan’s drum solo built towards a break-neck frenzy which could have powered a small suburban street for the evening. Among other highlights (Stella By Starlight, Falling Down and Jousting in 4D) was a doleful, rousing tribute to a fellow musician, recently departed, which dropped right down to a sepulchral, almost religious hush for the bass and drums, at which point I could hear the clacking of my ball-point (that sounds filthy, I’m referring to my biro, of course).
Once again, Jazz Steps have done the incredible in bringing a world-beating jazz group to humble little Arnold. Gawd bless ‘em!
All photos courtesy of Bob Meyrick (c)
Killer Shrimp played at the Bonington Theatre on 11th September 2008
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