Tron Theatre, 23rd June 2009. Part of Glasgow Jazz Festival
The more I hear Bobby Wellins, the more convinced I am that he’s not just one of the top UK jazz musicians, but one of the best contemporary mainstream sax players anywhere. Everything he plays is distinctively HIM, not just another highly-competent saxophone clone. It’s the combination of his distinctive slightly mournful tone, and the way he plays around with the timing of phrases. One part of the tune is drawn out a bit, then there’s a brief flurry of notes to let him catch up. And although he can play fast when he wants to, he knows the value of inserting a rest here and there in the music. Not a note is wasted.
I mustn’t give the impression it was a one man show, though. He was greatly helped by an excellent band: Barry Green on piano, Oli Hayhurst on bass, and Dave Wickens on drums. Green was particularly good. Not only did he play good solos, but he was an excellent accompanist who responded to what the saxophone was playing and threw in some ideas of his own for Wellins to work with. Towards the end of the first half, Tom McNiven and Chris Grieve put in an appearance, each playing as second horn in a quintet for one number, and then both appearing alongside Wellins in a sextet set finale. The first set was fine, but the second set, as so often seems to happen, was even better.