Bopper Peter King, who turns 75 this year, is quite simply Britain’s best alto saxophone player coming out of the tradition, and last night at the Vortex (King snapped above just before the gig) showed once again not that any proof was needed at all why he’s a giant.
It’s in the interpretation, the way King can make the instrument speak, the personality he brings to each phrase like an actor changing his delivery to invade the character he is playing. Just playing tunes is not King's thing at all like all great instrumentalists. Meaning is all.
This was a unique occasion with Tom Cawley at the Steinway, the Peter Gabriel pianist whose own trio Curios returns later this year for a new record on Basho; plus ex-Jamie Cullum bassist Geoff Gascoyne, his walking fingers doing the talking; and completing the quartet a fizzing super-athletic presence on kit from Mark Fletcher, a regular at Ronnie’s with his band Fletch’s Brew.
A very full club gathered to catch King and we were all courtiers in his presence. The first set came to a lively conclusion with Wayne Shorter’s ‘Yes or No’ from JuJu. And earlier in the set King’s own tune ‘Getting On’ from one of the altoist’s best albums Speed Trap dating back to the 1990s was another slice of effortless mastery, the night still young. SG