Damon Brown Quintet @ Victory Club

One of the saving graces of jazz – and something that we listeners tend to take for granted – is the ability of the musicians who play it to slot in with each other as if they had been in the same band for years. Not many other music genres can boast that facility, and it is something jazz musicians themselves could shout about a bit more.

Damon Brown’s band tonight was a case in point: the line-up had already altered two or three times prior to the gig, and a last-minute change saw Alec Dankworth and John Scott drafted in as deps on bass and drums respectively. They joined alto saxophonist Christian Brewer and pianist Leon Greening to support Brown the trumpeter who, as always, led from the front.

‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ opened proceedings with a bright, brassy solo from Brown followed by curt solos from Brewer, Greening and Dankworth to enable all to settle in.

‘Song for Sarnai’ was borne out of a holiday Damon had taken in Mongolia, and its hypnotic tune metamorphosed into a declamatory solo from the composer, and featured an expansive piano excursion as well as some soprano sax for a touch of exoticism. The quintet upped the tempo for ‘My Deposit’ – a busy, bebop-fashioned tune, with a great sense of ensemble, though Leon Greening’s frenzied keyboard breakout was something to behold!

Damon Brown’s ballad ‘I Don’t Mind’ then soothed furrowed brows, whilst a jaunty ‘Janine’ – a tune that had more than a hint of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ about it – drew the first set to a close.

Tad Dameron’s ‘On a Misty Night’ set the pace for a concentrated part two. The second set also included ‘Have You Met Miss Jones?’, ‘I Can’t Get Started’, ‘Ease It’ (a blues attributed to Paul Chambers) and ‘Like Someone in Love’ – a consummate collection of standards on which each player blossomed with each passing crotchet and quaver, and followed their imaginations to the nth degree. You’ll struggle to find that kind of empathy in anything other than jazz.

©2017 Julia Price