Thursday, 28 April 2011

Jazz Evening with 'Chris Gradwell and Friends' Sidmouth Sunday 27 March

The sun sets on Sidmouth seafront just before the concert
As the sun set over the beautiful seaside town of Sidmouth on a balmy spring evening at the end of March, music lovers were  treated to very special concert of music at Kennaway House (which is opposite the Sidmouth croquet lawns, if that helps).
The smartly refurbished basement of this historical building is a perfect venue for informal music. It is perhaps a little too smart for some jazz aficionados, but on this occasion the music provided all the atmosphere anyone could ask for.
Billed as 'Chris Gradwell and Friends', the evening's line-up included Andrew Daldorph playing piano with Chris Gradwell playing clarinets and saxophones.  Last seen together playing 'A Feast of German Romantic Music' at Crediton Parish Church with 'cellist Hilary Boxer and the Exeter Chamber Choir, Andrew and Chris were now in a much more casual - and mellow - mood.  completing the group were Andrew Barrett playing acoustic guitar, and a double bass player from nearby Topsham, Mike Thorn.
Chris Gradwell and Friends
Mike Thorn, Andrew Daldorph, Chris, Andrew Barrett
They played two lively and moving sets to an audience who sat in comfort at individual tables.  The bar was within easy reach for fresh drinks.  The jazz ranged from Cole porter to Beny Goodman with Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw along the way, not to mention Andrew Daldorph's own compositions - including the expansive 'Soarin' High'.  Not that the players were overly constrained by fixed musical patterns.  They demonstrated their amazing ability to improvise on a theme together, and separately.  Mike Thorn put in some extraordinary solos on his double bass.  He's not a tall man and had to reach over the body of his instrument to play wild cadenzas on the upper reaches of the fingerboard, which must have been achieved by touch alone!  Chris put in several impassioned solo creations on his various clarinets and saxophones, while heaping praise on the younger man, Andrew Daldorph, who had introduced him to jazz and improvisation after many years of formal classical playing. Given a chance Andrew himself would break free on his piano, delighting everyone. It was a pity that there wasn't a real piano at Kennaway.  Andrew had to use an electric keyboard.  However, it had a very convincing tone and Andrew's playing more than made up for that slight lack of authenticity. Let's not forget Andrew Barrett in all of this. His guitar solos and accompaniment were the icing on the cake, and Chris was at pains to point out just how good it was to have someone as musically reliable as Andrew to play alongside.
Alternately excited by driving rhythms, and soothed by delicately emotional playing, the audience were in no doubt that they would like to repeat the experience as soon as possible.  So it was very pleasing to discover that this was only the first of six concerts which they will perfrom at Kennaway this year.
The next time we can see 'Chris Gradwell and Friends' at Kennaway House is on Saturday 14 May at 7.30pm (drop in from 6.45 onwards for a drink!)  This is billed as 'Music Poetry Actors'.  Local actors and writers will be performing character sketches and reciting new poetry as an addition to the wonderful music of the jazz quartet.
In classical (or rather 'romantic') mode, Chris will be playing lead clarinet (with Chris Caldwell of 'Music on the Edge' playing bass clarinet) with a full orchestra at a performance of Elgar's 'Dream of Gerontius' by the East Devon Choral Society and Exeter Chamber Choir at St Paul's Church in Tiverton on Saturday 7 May, conducted by - Andrew Daldorph!

Chris Gradwell and Friends
Kennaway House Sidmouth
Saturday 14 May 7.30pm (doors open 6.45)
Music Poetry Actors
Chris Gradwell:Sax & Clarinet
Andrew Daldorph: Keyborrd
Andrew Barret: Guitar
Mike Thorn: Bass
Character Acting and Poetry:
Wally Cotgrave
Barbara Farquaharson
Kairen Hooker
Rowland Molony
John Torrance
Tickets: £7  Box: 07583 796855

East Devon Choral Society
Exeter Chamber Choir
St Paul's Church Tiverton
Saturday 7 May 7.30pm
Sir Edward Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius
Full symphony orchestra
conducted by Andrew Daldorph
Mezzo-Soprano: Frances Bourne
Tenor: Iain Milne
Bass: James Arthur
Tickets: Main Aisle £15, other £10 (U16 £6)
EDCS Box Office: 01884 840054
Tiverton Information Centre 01884 255827
Details: 01884 253494

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