Jazz breaking news: Jay Phelps Limbers Up For Some Jay Walkin’

Monday, September 6, 2010

It was hardly a Waterloo sunset to gaze on, but Jay Phelps at the plush Waterloo Brasserie near the Old Vic on Saturday night was on relaxed form as the trumpeter begins the build-up to the autumn release of his debut album Jay Walkin’, one of the key releases of the season that is dominated by the London Jazz Festival.

As “people so busy” could be seen through the windows of the brasserie bowling up to the theatre’s foyer for the evening performance of Noel Coward’s play Design For Living, Phelps was readying himself for the off near the windows at the front. Warming up by harmonising to the brasserie’s fine in-house sound system while growing numbers of patrons sipped Crozes-Hermitage or cocktails as the evening wore on, Phelps was joined for two sets before breaking for some supper, by his former Empirical band mate Shaney Forbes on drums, with Tim Thornton chugging along on double bass, and the fine under-the-radar Pat Martino-influenced Kevin Glasgow on guitar.

Forbes, who was recently playing on the closing night of the Brit Jazz Fest with Cleveland Watkiss at Ronnie Scott’s last month as well as with Empirical at the fest, knows just how to inspire any band he plays in whether here supremely measured on Art Blakey’s ‘Blues March’ with Phelps precise and neat; or setting the right pace for the standout ballad ‘Lover Man’ which was when Phelps came into his own. Glasgow with his fine classic jazz guitar technique worked with, rather than against, Phelps. He provided some exquisite changes, yet at times sounded a little too formal, like Dan Nimmer would if the Wynton Marsalis pianist played the guitar. Phelps returns to the Waterloo Brasserie on 2 October.

– Stephen Graham

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