The vibraphone isn’t the most portable of musical instruments, and negotiating its enormous scale every evening must take its toll in shoe leather. But whatever the hardships involved, Roger Beaujolais takes it all in his stride. He’s no stranger to Cheltenham of course, having brought this tip-top outfit to the Victory Club on several previous occasions. Each time we have been treated to music-making of the highest order, and tonight was no exception.
Wes Montgomery’s ‘Full House’ was the upbeat opener, replete with succinct vibes, piano and bass solos and cheeky drum trades – courtesy of Roger B, Robin Aspland, Simon Thorpe and Winston Clifford respectively. Then Beaujolais tugged at the heartstrings with a beautiful rendition of Milt Jackson’s mellow ballad of the same name. Things heated up on ‘Joe Beam’, Roger’s original latin-flavoured tune dedicated to the great Brazilian composer. Beaters were a-blur as Beaujolais scooted up and down the vibraphone, provoking a dazzling duel between himself and Aspland’s piano. This was topped off with an unshowy and perfectly judged drum solo from Winston Clifford.
A swinging arrangement of Jerome Kern’s ‘Yesterdays’ provided fertile ground once again for sparkling vibes and piano artistry. Then, another Beaujolais original ‘Unlucky for Some’ (so-called because “it has lots of thirteenths in it!”) began with a stolid walking bass and featured mellifluous runs and silky smooth arpeggios on the vibes until Robin Aspland came in with a brilliant piano solo.
Roger remarked that this band “runs like a well-oiled machine”, and this was exemplified by the way in which Thorpe grooved along while Clifford tickled his snare and hi-hat in encouragement until he was allowed to let loose with another masterly exploration of his kit.
The quartet eased into the second set with the laid-back ‘In the Meantime’ which flowed into the bluesey ‘Admission Impossible’. The fleet-of-foot ‘Benign Tonight’ was notable for its joyous interplay of vibes and drums whilst Aspland and Thorpe refrained from playing and gazed on in admiration.
A languid vibes intro led into a jaunty reading of Cole Porter’s ‘I Love You’ before Roger Beaujolais’ ‘And When You Smile’ wormed its way into our consciousness with its seductive style.
‘Lost For Words’ gave us a sneak preview of Roger’s new record ‘Barba Lunga’ made with his Italian Trio. The wistful waltz whetted our appetite for more, and he duly obliged with ‘Mind The Gap’, a bouncy closing number on which he displayed all his vibraphone virtuosity.
©2019 Julia Price