The Benn Clatworthy Quartet at Wakefield Jazz, Friday 16 October
This was an exhilarating performance—both sets practically non-stop and ranging in tempo and mood from brilliant, breakneck show-stoppers to a tender jazz rendering of ‘Londonderry Air.’
The Ben Clatworthy Quartet isn’t a tenor-plus-rhythm section outfit: this is an accomplished, highly integrated unit, which gave them a special cohesion, even at the outer reaches of their improvisations. Their individual virtuosity never crowded out the group sound as a whole. The number and length of the solo improvisations were very well judged, which gave the entire evening an unpredictable edge—not an easy thing with just four instruments.
John Donaldson’s piano support was alert and varied; and his solos ranged from driving, densely chorded runs to delicate, beautifully crafted melodic invention. Ben Clatworthy’s performance was a reminder of how much tonal variety can be expressed on a tenor saxophone and how beautifully expressive it can be. But whatever the tempo and whether he was playing at the top or the bottom range of his instrument, the music was unfailingly passionate, the notes carefully modulated and expressed with precision, whatever the speed of his runs.
The performance was peppered with unexpected rhythmic turns, sudden stops and shifts, which require musicianship of the caliber of Simon Thorpe on bass and Matt Home on drums—and their own solos were a delight, too.
This was jazz at its best: a top-drawer quartet of musicians playing at the top of their game, in a way that was thrilling but still accessible.
J Whitman 17.10.15