Vale Bar, 1st February 2010
This was the first gig I’d been to at the Vale Bar. In fact, it was the first time I knew that it put on live music. The performance took place in the upstairs bar, an atmospheric if awkwardly shaped space more reminiscent of a rock venue such as King Tut’s or The Captain’s Rest than a formal concert space. There was no stage, with the band simply setting up at one end of the room. The bar took up most of one side wall, and there was a small upper level at the back which housed the sound deck, a few tables and chairs, and the ladies loo. The venue apparently has a capacity of 70, and it was pretty full. The crowd was one of the youngest I’ve ever seen at a jazz concert (there were only a handful of us older than about 30) and included quite a few musicians.
This was very definitely a concert by the Alyn Cosker Trio plus saxophonist, rather than Seamus Blake plus backing band. The material was all originals from Alyn’s Lyn’s Une album. Michael Janisch was playing bass – mainly bass guitar, but also some double bass. What I particularly like about his playing, and that of Alyn Cosker, is that they can do all the fancy stuff without neglecting the basic rhythm section task of providing a good solid background for the rest of the band. Seamus Blake was very impressive on tenor. He has an attractive, fairly light, sound, with some of his playing in the upper register sounding very much like a soprano sax (Lucky Thompson’s soprano sound in particular). David Dunsmuir played some fine solos on guitar, switching between a dirty rocky John Scofield-like sound and a cleaner jazzier one as the need arose. For the last couple of numbers of a long concert (“Twitter and Bisted” and “Bheki”), the band were joined by Ryan Quigley on trumpet and Paul Towndrow on alto. If I remember correctly, Blake only played on the ensemble passages on these and left the soloing to the Scots.
This was a very enjoyable concert, and it’s always nice to see somewhere else putting on live jazz. It’s not a venue which would suit every band, though: there’s no piano, and I can’t see how you could get one up the stairs.