Roger Beaujolais Quartet

Friday 14 Apr 2023

A History of the Vibraphone with the Roger Beaujolais and his Quartet.

An evening somewhat different to our usual format with Roger explaining the differences between the vibraphone and xylophone and marimba being the metal keys and the vibrato fans that are now of variable speed from an electric motor on the modern instruments compared with the single speed and clockwork motor of early instruments. Beginning with the music of Lionel Hampton, who used a fast vibrato setting and hard mallets compared to the slower speed and softer ones of many modern players. The rest of the quartet, all known to CJC members from previous concerts were Gareth Williams on piano, Nigel Thomas on bass and Milo Fell on drums and provided a fine backing for the music that was to come. Things got underway with the lively Charlie Christian tune 'Airmail Special’ synonymous with Lionel Hampton, followed in contrast with his beautiful tune ‘Moon Glow’. Roger then related how Lionel and the vibraphone came to prominence when joined the Benny Goodman band for $500 a week; a considerable amount of money in 1936. Following a little about Red Norvo during a similar period, we moved on to another giant of the instrument, namely Milt Jackson who with John Lewis, on piano, Percy Heath on bass and following a brief period Kenny Clark, Connie Kay on drums, formed the famous Modern Jazz Quartet, playing music influenced by classicalcool jazzblues and bebop, with Roger remarking that Milt appeared to play everything as a blues! From the MJQ repertoire. Roger and the quartet played ‘Django’ followed by ‘Bag’s Groove’ by Milt Jackson. The first set finished with the chromatic Lionel Hampton tune ‘Midnight Sun’.                                                                                 

The second set began with more fascinating vibraphone history including a reference to a large African instrument needing three players. We then heard Milt Jackson’s ballad ‘Heartstrings’ and moved on to the Latin and Brazilian jazz explored by Cal Tjader with his tune ‘Curaçau’. Returning to MJQ material came ‘Delaunay’s Dilemma by John Lewis, explaining the dilemma being Charles Delaunay’s dislike of bebop but enjoying the MJQ with its musicians coming from that era. Moving on we heard about Bobby Hutcherson and his avant-guard and fusion work but Roger played his waltz ‘Little B’s Poem’ and ‘Bouquet’ which he considers to be one the most beautiful tunes for the vibraphone and then heard about Gary Burton and the four-mallet Burton grip before finishing with the well-known ‘Flying Home’ by Lionel Hampton. A truly fascinating evening, being even more entertaining, by not being simply a chronological history but an exploration into the beautiful sound of the vibraphone.


Photos from the event

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