This band was formed about 18 months ago as a platform for Andy Sheppard to play in his adopted City of Bristol. The trio allows him to work locally when not touring Internationally and is confined to the area.
He and drummer Tony Orrell are old sparring partners from late 70’s Bristol super-group SPHERE which toured Europe and recorded a couple of albums. Orrell is, and has always been unorthodox, not in any way classical as a drummer, rather his off beat style and humour around a kit has always had him in high regard. His ability to turn his hand to everything from straight ahead to totally free jazz means he is the ideal partner for this grouping. The young gun co-opted in is Dan Moore, who is making fine inroads into jazz and popular music with work including James Morton’s “Porkchop”, Pee Wee Ellis, Will Young and local Soul outfit “Phantom Limb”. His Hammond style keyboard sound fills out the trio and negates a bassist.
When this band first emerged the idea was to ‘just play’ and to be a bit “cheesy & fun”. Andy chooses to pick on favourite pop and rock songs as a base and introduce an improvised jazz edge to the tunes. Lace in a few jazz standards and hey presto. This was the mix in the early outings but as with most Sheppard projects they grow and develop along the way and this is no different.
Now, they still have that certain mix of tunes but all are far more firmly based in great jazz and are completely accomplished pieces~ though still with an anarchic fun element. The room at the Chicken is well filled by kick off as the band start with Shepp’; improvising a lead-in to a three tune montage. First up is one of two Wayne Shorter tunes, “Witch Hunt”, segued via an Orrell drum solo into “Mahjong”. The third is also segued but this time Dan the Man fully uses the organ to full effect on Pink Floyd’s “Burning Bridges”, the place erupts with extended applause.
Andy announces it was good to be back playing ‘South of the River’, lending memories of many old Albert Inn gigs and to mark that by playing a tune he used often as a standard then, “The Night has a Thousand Eyes” a la Rollins. This extended to Andy swapping to Soprano from tenor sax~ to solo. If any evidence were needed that Bristol was lucky enough to have a world-class jazz artist living here, this was it. Awesome example of rhythm and technique with long passages of circular breathing which Sheppard makes look effortless; while some use this technique for ‘show’ this is really how to use it, for musical effect.
Coltranesque version on “My Favourite Things” entwined with Whitney Houston’s “Saving all my Love” saw the end of set one and a short break to capture ones breath.
You wouldn’t think a Siouxie & the Banshees track would convert to jazz but “Dear Prudence” imaginatively kicks off the second half. “A cowboy tune?…” says Andy, the theme from the film “Midnight Cowboy” permeates the room with the Larry Adler harmonica aire replaced by Sheppard’s Soprano sax, this starts another three tune medley melding into each other. Next follows Art Garfunkel’s “I Only Have Eyes For You”, Midnight Cowboy is briefly reprised before moving into the classic jazz ballad “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”~ quite brilliant.
“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” the rock ballad from Neil Young, beautifully played. “All Or Nothing At All” recalling Sinatra is followed by a finale of two pieces, Coltrane’s “Naima” and “Wonderful World”. Shouts and screams leads to MORE.
At the end it seemed like the world was wonderful and not up shit’s creek as in these dark economic days, this is why music and the arts are so important in such times~ to allow us to escape briefly into orgasms of bliss when talented folk perform so beautifully well. Cheers guys