Chris Biscoe Quartet @ Studio Theatre

Baritone sax and alto sax, no piano, could this be Two of a Mind or just Two of a Kind! Well with Chris Biscoe and Allison Neale I think it is two of a kind. They are paying homage to the quartet that Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker pioneered at the Haig in L.A. and more importantly, here, continued with Paul Desmond on alto. I’ve read two differing versions as to why the piano is missing, whatever the reason we were treated to the original format of Chris Biscoe on baritone, Allison Neale on alto, with Jeremy Brown on bass and Stu Butterfield on drums.

Yes, homage, but not a slavish, sickly imitation. They kicked off with an upbeat Mulligan number, “Standstill” this soon developed into a superb baritone solo, then the contrasting sound of the alto then playing together, this set the tone of things to come, short solos and a longer section of duetting.

Chris is an accomplished composer and the next number, “Then and Now” sits very comfortably along side the original repertoire of 55 years ago. The next number saw the light of day in 1937, “Easy Living” this was taken suitably slowly and beautifully played

A waltz came next and saw Chris reach for his bass clarinet for “Lover” and demonstrating the enormous range of the instrument. Here we saw Stu Butterfield shine on his rather wonderful drum kit, quite a minimalist set made from a very attractive light wood. This obviously contributed to the striking (excuse pun) sound of the rim shots, excellent sound.

Next a tune Mulligan played with Chet Baker, “Line for Line” then an upbeat version of Kern’s “All The Things You Are”, this had more protracted solos to allow the soloists more scope.

Allison Neale was in the spotlight next with her arrangement of “How Deep is the Ocean”, originally by Irving Berlin, this piece had a duet (sans bass & drums) showing the subtle interweaving of these two, very different saxophones.

Hoagy Carmichael next and his “Stardust” appropriately wistful and a suitable number for a lovely bass solo by Jeremy Brown. Bosa Nova time next with “Indian Summer” again a time for some great interplay between eveybody. Lastly another outing for Gerone Kern, “The Way You Looked Tonight” quite a swinging affair.

So, did it work? I think very much so. The quartet worked beautifully, they enjoyed working together and it fitted the intimate space that the Everyman Studio offers. I’m sure that Gerry and Paul would have approved of the old and new or as Chris would say, Then and Now.

PJL 3 February