Thelonious, continuing their Downstairs bar residency, have just recorded an album and yes play Monk tunes familiar and less so very well indeed.
Steered by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra bassist Calum Gourlay with Hans Koller on euphonium, alto saxist Martin Speake and fast track newcomer David Dyson on drums, the bar gradually filled up a bit, Speake’s thoughtful off-stand interjections when he moved back to the wall added a lontano effect deftly harmonising with Koller. An alert Gourlay presided over everything, the wiry timbre of his double bass sound and nimbleness of his fingers capable of untangling the beat or just as easily twisting it into gnarly knots as needed.
The upstairs audience gathered meanwhile for the first set of the Never band’s second night stay. The leader, Zhenya Strigalev, whose Robin Goodie was one of the year's best UK jazz albums, was joined by his Smiling Organizm bandmate drummer Eric Harland known more widely for his work with the Charles Lloyd New Quartet on such great records as Mirror; plus bass guitarist Matt Garrison (son of Classic Coltrane Quartet bassist Jimmy Garrison) who owns the influential Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn; and completing the quartet the pianist Aaron Parks whose Arborescence was a significant achievement on release two years ago, his range of improvising possibilities hampered only a little by a broken string. Garrison moved everything along nicely in a fast moving first set that built on feverish chord changes and found space for percolating grooves that moved via bebop to hover in an electronic space, his innovative use of Ableton live effects producing pivotal moments to allow the music to somersault into life.
Towards the end of the set on a great night for fans who like top class alto saxophonists you could hear a bit of the tumblingly compelling signature sound of Soweto Kinch drifting up through the ceiling and who was jamming after Thelonious had left the floor. In front of a full house the Birmingham player, who is planning to work in the studio with drummer Gregory Hutchinson soon, was in full flow alongside Electric Biddle guitarist Hannes Riepler, double bassist Dave Whitford and jam scene regular Jon Scott.