John Etheridge's Blue Spirit Trio @ The Victory Club

John Etheridge is back! But will he be the jazz machine or the Soft Machine? We needn’t have worried, as John launched into a very upbeat “Speaking of Later” in an unashamedly jazz rock style.

Next, Hoagy Carmichael’s evocative “Georgia on My Mind” opening with an incredibly slow, soulful guitar solo. As the rest of the trio joined in it became a full blown celebration of Georgia! Then, again, the wonderful solo jazz guitar to wind it down. A very upbeat version of “Allen’s Alley” otherwise known as “Wee” by Denzil Best was next with John demonstrating his Skatting capabilities.

To get everyone’s breath back John slowed right down and played a very long intro that eventionally blossomed forth into “In a Sentimental Mood,” beautifully handled by the trio.

I must mention the rest of the band here, George Double on drums and Pete Whittaker on organ, not a B3 sadly but a Crumar “MOJO.” Both provided excellent backing.

Now a tribute to the swinging sixties, Brian Hyland’s “Sealed With a Kiss” and this one was suitably swinging. With a quick change back to a jazz hat, Nat Adderley’s “Sweet Emma”.

After the break, John came up for a solo, still in the jazz vein, Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” beautifully played and beautifully bluesy. For the next number John inserted a very clever strip of cardboard into the strings next to the bridge, this produced a very distinctive clipped sound and as if by magic we were transported to the Townships of South Africa and “Sandussa” by Abdullah Ibrahim. I suspect that the bit of cardboard had a little help from John’s considerable playing skill!

Next up a Stevie Wonder tune penned for Jeff Beck, “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.” Might sound sentimental but this was given the full rock treatment. John Scofield’s “Wabash” was next, John being quite at home with this type of number, according to my notes this was played in an “energetic” manner, so you can (sound) picture it!

John then gave us a chat about his conversion to country music after he realised the songs were “white man’s blues”, some were not convinced, however we were treated to a bluesy version of “Cold Cold Heart” by Hank Williams – seemed to work ok.

A John Etheridge original next, in the gospel vein, “Distant Voice” taken more robustly than on his 2007 album “In House”. Sensing perhaps, the end of the gig, a tune popularised my Mel Torme, but originally an instrumental by Ben Tucker “I’m Coming Home Baby” this was taken as a fast rock number and was loud!

After such a sensational gig the audience would not let them go without an encore, so, to cheer us up, “A Sack of Woe” by Cannonball Adderley, musically fitting for a gig that was such a diverse sack of joy!

P.J.L. January ’18