That so few female jazz musicians are able to smash through the glass ceiling of a (still) male-dominated art form is a sad indictment of our times, as well as a poor reflection of the jazz world. So while saxophonist Trish Clowes fulfils the role of both poster girl and trailblazer, let us hope that her patrairchal peers are properly listening and fully appreciating what she brings to the music we all know and love.
The Glow Quartet is just one of Trish’s many musical outfits, and this one sees her matched up with the glorious Gareth Williams, a pianist of inestimable renown and invention. Everything was fluent right from the off: Trish Clowes’ succulent tenor tone and Gareth Williams’ keyboard wizardry dovetailing perfectly atop the rock-solid rhythm section of Calum Gourlay and Tim Giles. ‘Nobody Else But Me’, this evening’s opening number, drove straight out of the blocks with expansive solos from both Trish and Gareth.
Gareth Williams’ admiration for pianist Bill Evans is well known to the Cheltenham Jazz crowd: last year he teamed up with bassist Dave Green to play the great man’s music in duo form. Tonight, Gareth presented ‘Short Story’, an original composition dedicated to Bill Evans. Yet while the focus may have been on the piano writing, both saxophone and bass had enough musical morsels to get their teeth into.
The microphone was repositioned for Jerome Kern’s ‘Love In Vain’, so that Gareth Williams could exercise his vocal cords as well as his nimble fingers. And though his delivery was not quite on a par with Nina Simone – one of Trish’s heroines – combined with the sound of the quartet in full, the result was remarkably affecting. The briefest of brush solos from Tim Giles in the midst of the song was a lovely touch too.
Another effortless piano solo and a deliciously warming bass solo marked out ‘Not Bossa’, another Gareth Williams original. Then came Lennie Tristano’s ‘Lennie’s Pennies’, based on the changes from ‘Pennies from Heaven’ only in a minor key. The quartet reigned in some of Tristano’s bebop urgency in favour of cool precision and technical excellence, and was another example of the band’s sheer class.
After the interval, Trish Clowes demonstrated her own compositional skills with ‘Light’ and ‘For Pete’ – the former, an upbeat yet suitably luminous medium for her tenor improvisations; the latter manoeuvring a path between subtle minimalism and reimagined jazz licks. Both tunes showed that Trish is a composer to be reckoned with as well as a formidable player.
Between times, Gareth Williams was back in crooning mode for Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein’s ‘Don’t Ever Leave Me’, its lazy tempo providing the ideal backdrop for some more un-showy solos. Indeed, the quartet brought the same dedication and application to all tonight’s material – standards and originals alike. And throughout, all four demonstrated the full gamut of their respective instruments without ever resorting to party tricks.
To close, the band turned to an old chestnut – ‘All the Things You Are’. A tune this audience has heard countless times but, I doubt, rarely with as much panache or smooth sheen as it had tonight. The Glow Quartet are the very model of a stylish and classy outfit: and Trish Clowes is the chief reason for that. Are you listening fellas…???
Julia Price, Dec ’16