Posted by Steuart Hedington.
Reviewed on 22nd April 2004.
Live at HiFi Club on Friday, 9th April 2004
Graham Jones - Bass
Mark Priestly - Guitar
Bruce Renshaw - Drums (dep)
Ruth Coffey - Congas
Caroline Standen - Flute/Alto Saxophone
Alison Sheldon - Clarinet
Paul Lee - Soprano/Tenor Saxophones
Christine Smith - Tenor Saxophone
Richard Scott - Baritone Saxophone
Helen Mills - Trumpet
Jem Dobbs - Trumpet
Steve Etheridge - Trombone
Rich Warrington - Trombone
Throwing a party? Invite this band!
The audience were already very warm from the excellent french band that had preceeded, and of-course Bassa brought them to boiling point within the first three tunes. The arrangements throughout were superb, often sublime to me, but maybe that's just me. I thought drummer Bruce Renshaw did a fine job of keeping this dancing, laughing, sometimes crazy band tight on the nail. He at short notice stood in for Bassa's Colin Byrne..but more about percussive matters later.
"Mama Too Tight" was Bassa's opener. They drove it into the audience, an instant and huge impact of sound to get them bolt upright and listening with their bodies as well as their ears. The energy was thumping and Paul Lee took a tenor solo: now I've really heard a tenor player who cuts. He was big, loud and very clear over some very strong harmony. Guitar work from Mark Priestly was Rock 'n Roll Funky on this tune and I lapped it up.
"Andromeda" opened in contrast with Caroline Standen and Alison Sheldon in high melody playing flute and clarinet. Despite being so gloriously in contrast, the pitch of these high notes washing over the club kept that height of adrenelin in suspension, hanging, with Ruth Coffey rippling the congas underneath. And in came the rest..whoosh! Up we go! Helen Mills has a really beautiful sound on trumpet; it is full and very melodic, so it was fitting that she led the melody in the mid section. I had to ask her afterwards about her sound, and she remarked simply that she was "classically trained." Her modesty betrays the amount of work and love she has evidentally given her instrument: she was always strong, always melodic, and always on the button. Superb.
Trombonist Steve Etheridge led us on a merry dance: he was just mad, and extremely entertaining both to listen to and to watch. And here again was some fantastic arrangement with Richard Scott pumping out the funk with baritone saxophone, syncopated by the brass section.
Speaking of arrangements, the rising and falling pressure of the harmonised blowers in their third tune "Killer Joe" had my goosbumps prickling and my hair curling, and there in the middle of the number Christine Smith wandered into a searching tenor saxophone solo that was so far out it was most definitely IN! She produced such a warm sound, and yet it was so stark and alone, because of the notes she chose. It was obvious that she stopped everyone dead, because of the highly appreciative roar from the largely french crowd.
Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and Ska..and the connection is? Well Bassa made that idea work a treat! Another high duet this time with Paul Lee playing soprano saxophone to great effect with Alison Sheldon ringing out with equal force and beauty. It was great to hear such funky lines in Graham Jones bass solo, but when all was said and done, quite suddenly the band kind of dispersed and quietened into a random series of honks, farts, whistles from all directions: it would be cool to have that on my stereo for sure! And then emerging and after a fashion truly dominating the sound was Richard Scott tearing through with fast lines and deep vibes from his baritone saxophone..where was he going, where was he going? He arraived forcefully at "Moanin,'" a Mingus classic designed for baritone. This was the best arrangement of all the pieces: the lines and harmony were perfectly worked out, the trumpets superbly reproducing harmony played by alto saxophones in the original. This tune was a real thrill for me, but of-course I am a Mingus fan. So for the unbiased view I'll let you know that the audience were positively jumping for this one.
The last tune I will discuss here (they played two more for the encore) is one of their own compositions, written by Graham Jones. It was a fantastic tune with fine arrangement and so much happening. At last drummer Bruce Renshaw featured in this piece, and he made a startling performance here, controlling every moment and moving it forward with breathtaking force and momentum. The whole tune really was like a finale as it contained so many of the elements of the performances preceeding it, bringing it all together into a climax. Helen again sang through, this time contrasted to the extreme by her dark side, namely Jem Dobbs. It was sooo dirty, rude, raucus and right in your face. Jem should play for the Pot Noodle TV ads. I absolutely loved it. Bruce Renshaw's main solo was punctuated by harmony to great excitement, and ideally to finish there was a massive rush of sound.
Bassa Bassa gave the Hi-Fi Club a blinder: the set was very well worked out and it was obvious that it had been very carefully considered. I would like to hear more from alto saxophone please! Being an alto player I was sore that I didn't get to hear Caroline Standen play out until the very end on the last encore: come on sort it out.
I highly recommend this exciting, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable band who work extremely hard. We will keep you updated on forthcoming gigs so keep checking people - Jazz In Leeds Forum