Posted by: Ian Briggs on 31st May 2012 at 6:59 pm
It is not often that world-class musicians visit Northern Ireland, so when the opportunity arose to see one of the very best clarinettists close to home, I couldn’t afford to miss out.
Direct from New Orleans, Evan Christopher played a concert in the North Down Museum in Bangor, where an audience of almost one hundred people turned out to see him.
In a previous blog post I wrote a review of his last visit to Northern Ireland in 2010, in what was a great gig at the Black Box in Belfast. This time he returned with the same group of stunning musicians: David Blenkhorn on guitar, Dave Kelbie on rhythm guitar, and Sebastien Girardot on bass.
The playing was top class: beautiful interactions between the instruments, virtuosic playing from all the ensemble members and repertoire that was a mixture of slow, romantic songs (including one with Christopher singing vocals which was a nice interlude in the programme) contrasted with full-on, high-energy rhythms.
The solos were inventive in their style, but also full of that blues roots that screams New Orleans jazz. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that the performance did not follow the usual jazz format, in that the solos were mixed up and seemed to blend into one another seamlessly.
Christopher’s clarinet playing is sublime; a breathy, sultry low range lifts into a vibrant mid range and the clarity and ease with which he hits the very top notes is just amazing. As with all pro musicians, he has an incredible ability to make the most difficult things looks very easy, and this is true of the rest of the group: David Blenkhorn’s guitar playing is subtle when playing with the others, and yet he produces brilliantly crafted solos when needed. Similarly the rhythm guitar playing of Dave Kelbie is so relaxed but provides that solid straight-ahead percussive ‘beat’ that drives the music forward, and is backed up by some fantastic bass playing from Sebastien Girardot who manages to create a rich, resonant sound and include some percussive slap-bass technique that gives his solos a difference dimension.
It was another fantastic gig from this quartet and a great opportunity for people to hear this unique sound. I have embedded a YouTube video of the group below, which is well worth a listen. Check out this fabulous group if you ever get the chance.
Posted by: Ian Briggs on 26th October 2010 at 11:10 pm
Well tonight we’ve been to our first event as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s. We saw Evan Christopher, a clarinettist from America who played some phenomenal creole-style jazz from New Orleans. You can catch some of his stuff on YouTube here and here, and I encourage anyone with an interest in jazz, or any reeds player to have a look.
He is an exceptional player, but also a really charismatic performer who clearly knows his stuff, and told the audience many stories filled with his passion of creole music and Django Reinhardt. On the musical front it was great to see such close interaction between him and his band (a wonderful combination of guitar, rhythm guitar, double bass and clarinet).
Lots of solos were crafted beautifully but although they were complex and challenging, they still maintained the New Orleans style and never strayed too far into unfamiliar territory.
We got the feeling they had rehearsed every piece down to the last detail, but speaking to them after the gig, this definitely wasn’t the case! They are a really down-to-earth group of musicians touring for the release of their second album, and the night was superb. We were delighted we went to see something we ordinarily wouldn’t have.
And we even managed to speak to Evan himself about some nerdy clarinet talk (he uses an Albert-system Selmer!). What more could you want from a night out…?