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Alan Barnes and Andy Panayi Sextet - salute to Cannonball and Coltrane

Friday 09 Dec 2022

This was a Christmas cracker of an evening, a feast of post-bop jazz by a superlative sextet who quickly warmed the frosty weather off of a Full House – a testament to their reputations and popularity.

Anybody who still had earmuffs on snatched them off when the front line launched into “Milestones” in perfect unison followed by exciting, driving solos which set the tone for the rest of the night.

Most of the numbers they played began and ended with a demonstration of the highest quality of unison playing and most of the solos were backed by front line riffs and figures which added to their interest and excitement.

“Milestones” was followed by “Two Bass Hit”, with a forceful solo from Andy Panayi (he changed his reed afterwards) and some nice fills from Pete Cater.

Alan caused much amusement by complaining to Andy about having to sight-read difficult charts before they began Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine”, which gave us a beautiful solo from Robbie Robson - whose mellow tone contrasted appropriately with the saxes - and was followed by a sparkling solo from John Donaldson.

The gospel-tinged and somewhat funky “Dis Here” (Bobby Timmons) raised the audience to new heights of excitement, largely the result of Alan’s solo which I described in my notes as “wild and squealing” – I hope he won’t mind but, Alan, I loved it.

Cannonball’s “Wabash” allowed an exhausted Alan to play in a more gently melodic style! Robbie’s and Andy’s excellent solos were enhanced by some very sympathetic accompaniment from Pete Cater.

Coltrane’s “Lazy Bird” and “Blue Train”, both from the album of the same name, completed the first half with impressive solos on both numbers from Andy and Robbie and the second of Simon Thorpe’s thoughtful solos.

After a lengthy, mince-pie-fuelled interval, we were reawakened by Peter Cater’s emphatic introduction to Coltrane’s “Locomotion” and the excitement returned instantly to its pre-pie level. This was a high-octane number that stirred the soul with fiery solos from the frontline, brilliantly accompanied by John, Simon and Pete.

Alan believes that Nat Adderley’s “The Jive Samba” would be more accurately  described as a “Semi-aggressive Bossa Nova”! Nevertheless, it resulted in a superbly sinuous solo of increasing intensity from him before a soulful one from Andy and an especially good unison ending from the front line.

On Freddie Hubbard’s “Dear John”, Robbie’s “easy”, relaxed solo was the calm before the storm of Alan and Andy’s scorching contributions. They were followed by another excellent solo from Simon and a beautifully constructed one from Pete.

Mark Nightingale had written an arrangement of Coltrane’s “Naima” for Alan Barnes +11 – the group Alan put together to celebrate his recent birthday. Now it was rearranged for six and it was a tour de force, the front line’s complex interplay demonstrating superb musicianship.

Having heard “Dis Here” it was time to listen to “Dat Dere”, with its jaunty introduction. The only ballad on the Blue Train album, “I’m Old Fashioned”, gave Alan the opportunity for a sublime solo followed by the pure-toned trumpet of Robbie, excellent solos again from John and Simon and brilliant brushwork throughout from Pete.

“Del Sasser” (Sam Jones) provided the final joyous romp of this stirring early Christmas present from a wonderful sextet who sent the capacity audience out into the frost warmed and very happy. It’s a long time since I’ve tapped my toe so much!

Photos from the event

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