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Recital Room, 28th March 2010

This was originally billed as being by a Bobby Wellins – Konrad Wiszniewski quintet, but since Konrad had prior bookings at the Gateshead Jazz Festival, it ended up as a quartet performance. I hope they’ll get together as a team at some later date, as I think they’re a pair of players who share some of the same virtues – a great sound, and the knowledge that playing the right notes is more important than playing lots of notes – without sounding anything like each other.

The stage was arranged differently from the usual Recital Room set-up, with the pianist on the audience’s right, looking out at the audience, and the drums on the left. Wellins himself played without a microphone, generally positioning himself on the far left of the room, beyond the drummer. It initially looked odd, and meant that we couldn’t see much of what pianist David Patrick was doing, but the sound balance was a lot better than it’s often been in this venue.

The first half of the concert was excellent. One of the great strengths of the tenor saxophone as a jazz instrument is that there are so many different ways it can be made to sound, and one of the marks of a great tenor player is that they can convince you that the way they make it sound is the only way it should be played. Bobby Wellins has that gift. He got excellent support from David Patrick on piano, Sean Pentland on bass and Tom Bancroft on drums, who reminded us all what an excellent straightahead jazz player he is.

The material was all standards, except for one Patrick original which Wellins sat out on, with the highlights being a faster than usual Latin-tinged “My Funny Valentine” and Neal Hefti’s “The Odd Couple”.

During the second set, promoter Todd Gordon came on to sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” with the band, and up-and-coming young drummer Corrie Dick replaced Bancroft for a couple of numbers. There was absolutely nothing wrong with their contributions, but the chopping and changing in the line-up broke the flow of the event slightly, and as a result I felt the second half of the concert didn’t quite match the quality of first.

Konrad Wiszniewski caught up with the other four musicians for the final date of their mini-tour in Perth. Kenny Mathieson reviewed the gig in the Scotsman.

Konrad’s contributions to the Gateshead Jazz Festival got covered by the Newcastle blog Bebop Spoken Here, who gave both Brass Jaw and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra rave reviews. Stu Brown’s Raymond Scott Project went down well too. The Herald carried a combined review of the various Scottish contributions to the festival.