Ed Jones Quartet @ The Victory Club

Ed Jones is a saxophonist who has served his apprenticeship, developed his chops, and is at last branching out on his own musical journey, supported by a band of younger but no less adept players. For a long time Ed preferred to be a sideman rather than take the leading role, and he’s probably most familiar to the Cheltenham Jazz crowd from his appearances alongside cornet virtuoso Damon Brown. But if Ed stood somewhat in the shadows in that context, he is now firmly in the limelight, displaying a confidence and lyricism that leaves us in no doubt that, with this quartet, he has come of age.

Similarly, Ross Stanley has been the go-to Hammond wizard for many an organ trio, and in these parts most recently accompanied guitarist Phil Robson. However, he is a formidable pianist, with lightning-fast hands and an flawless technique. Add-in the rhythm section of bassist Riaan Vosloo and drummer Tim Giles – both of whom are gaining top-notch reputations in their own right – and it’s no wonder Ed Jones is on cloud nine right now.

He has just released his debut CD with this quartet, ‘For Your Ears Only’, and tonight’s stop off at the Victory Club was part of a lengthy UK tour to promote it. The album’s opening track, Nomadology, also kick-started the evening. Jones’s debt to Wayne Shorter was evident immediately as he launched into an impressively nimble soprano solo, barely pausing for breath as his long, unbroken line straddled the side-shifting harmonies. The quartet’s assertive, muscular sound certainly grabbed the attention, but it was Ross Stanley’s mercurial piano solo that made everyone really sit up and take notice.

That evergreen standard Body & Soul was cast as a swinging waltz, Ed Jones stating the unmistakable theme on tenor before all four were allowed time to express themselves expansively. Riaan Vosloo’s self-assured bass solo and the cheeky drum trades with Tim Giles ensured that this was no ‘paint-it-by-numbers’ treatment.

Similarly, Stella By Starlight began as a ballad with brushes following a tenor and piano introduction, and grew in intensity with each passing solo. Then came Libra by Gary Bartz – another fleet-footed romp with Jones on soprano. Stanley hammered out insistent chords on the keys whilst Jones’s soprano slithered snake-like atop the writhing rhythm. Eventually it spilled over into a hectic Tim Giles drum solo and signalled the time to take a break.

Set 2 opened with Invitation: a gentle tenor and piano intro gave way to eloquent expositions on the changes, rounded off with some deftly-traded eights. An Ed Jones original, The Fifth Season, had an autumnal feel about it. With its rakish 5/4 rhythm and sauntering soprano it offered a little respite from some of the more in-your-face music of the first half.

Perhaps the most memorable moments came during Solstice, bassist Riaan Vosloo’s original composition. The lilting, syncopated tenor theme that emerges after the brief solo bass introduction, bears all the hallmarks of an earworm – albeit a quality one. It lodges in the brain with disarming ease, while its rolling drums and chiming piano suggest a hint of unease beneath the surface.

It was back to the bop for Pandora’s Box, an uptempo affair on which Jones and Stanley once again excelled. The encore, Blame It On My Youth – a swishy ballad led by tenor – was one of the more concise statements of the night. But no less endearing for all that.

©2018 Julia Price