‘Ugly Beauty, the only tune Thelonious Monk wrote in 3/4, pianist Sam Leak mused to the audience, after his quartet had played the rugged slice of bebop in all its lithe agility. Leak modestly and courteously called tunes as he went along and name checked his band a few times. Another Sam, tenor saxophonist Sam Crockatt, draws to mind the scrabbling intensity of Chris Potter a bit or even closer certainly for his bluesiness, Donny McCaslin. Crockatt has tremendous facility achieved by harnessing his lovely salt caramel expressive tone with plenty of old school Dexter-ity and even on the sumptuously slow Gordon Jenkins tearjerker ‘Goodbye’ pulled something out of his interpretative bag of tricks as Leak delivered the sensitivity required harmonically. There was a good turn out on a cold night, the jam kicking off in the second set and moving into the wee small hours of the morning. Gene Calderazzo of Partisans was the third member of the quartet and made his mark taking the tempo up in the extended version of Ornette’s ‘When Will the Blues Leave?’ the real moment to savour of what I heard of the first set.
Bassist Dave Whitford, who is on Christine Tobin’s fine new Muldoon album Pelt, and still, he told me during the break, enjoying the Riepler jam he regularly participates in on Sundays at the Vortex, loaned his bass to a player only referred to as Inga who began the jam portion of the evening. Leak has a poetic unslavishly Jarrettonian touch and his voicings show an arranger’s sensibility. He’s up there as a homegrown scene über talent whose fame ought to spread year in year out for all the right reasons. Surely we need that oblique sensibility that straddles bittersweet mastery of the ballad, terrier-like tenacity on thornier bebop and a quiet grip on the direction of the quartet sound in more abundance to offset trivial concerns however temporarily? And you know, proof be told, the audience listened however diverting their nightcaps and the endlessly fascinating Soho night proved to be. SG
Down Frith St way, above