Philip Clouts Quartet

Friday 29 Sep 2023

Philip Clouts – piano, Samuel Eagles – saxophone, Tim Fairhall – bass,              Ted Carrasco – drums.

This quartet’s musical inspirations come from around the world and they played a varied set with superb musicianship, great cohesion and sparkling enthusiasm which enthused the audience to give them prolonged and very well-deserved applause at the end of the evening. The infectious enjoyment of the musicians themselves came mainly from Philip’s compositions and their familiarity with each other’s skills and contributions to each piece.

Philip takes the trouble to introduce each number with anecdotes and explanations which enhance the audience’s understanding and enjoyment. He revealed influences, on what they played on this occasion, from Africa (in general and South Africa, where he was born, in particular), California, and New Orleans as well as gospel, flamenco and Jarrett and Coltrane. This requires a great deal of breadth and adaptability which every member of the group displayed to great effect.

They began with Marula (an African tree), a typically bright and lively number which set the tone for most their set, followed by the gospel-influenced Meandering which showed us how well-integrated this quartet is, playing as a single, expressive unit.

The only standard of the evening was All The Things You Are, given a wonderful rendition featuring a sparkling solo from Philip and an emotionally expressive one from Samuel. This number served to illustrate two stylistic features of this group: numbers tend to finish quietly but, within them, solos tend to build to crescendos. It seemed to me that these features created closer attention from the audience.

Clefmona (an anagram that Philip left us to solve) was a gentler number with some thoughtful, reflective playing from him and Samuel. Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row (California) calls the hour just before dawn the “hour of pearl”; it inspired Philip to compose As Evening Falls, another emotional and reflective number with exquisite playing from each member of the group, especially Tim, the originality of whose solos, throughout the evening, made it seem as if he was telling us a story each time. Deco, a number in 5/4 time, with two-bar phrases, ended the first half in rumbustious fashion, not least thanks to an excellent solo from Ted whose drumming was always actively prompting and supportive of his companions without being overpowering – a best example of the modern participatory style.

Going to Congo Square refers to a place in New Orleans where there is a party every Sunday and this was a happy, rollicking number with a rhythm that Ted told me is called “Second Line” and relates to local marching bands. In significant contrast, the quiet Solitude was inspired by a Keith Jarrett album of sacred hymns.  Invitation was the theme tune for a film of that name which John Coltrane would play as a ballad but Philip had decided deserved a latin treatment which gave us an exciting solo from Samuel and another demonstration of Tim’s and Ted’s skills as accompanists. Philip’s excellent solo began Scintillate in wistful fashion before the mood of the piece changed more in line with its title, though the simplicity of Samuel’s solo was in contrast to his equally accomplished pyrotechnical dexterity on other numbers.

Biram Blues (it’s an African 5-string harp) included another inspiring solo from Tim before the evening ended with Commotion in “C” with the South African influence of Township very evident. You can imagine what an exciting end to the evening this style of music provided.

This quartet was collectively and individually brilliant and their original, varied and entertaining performance thoroughly deserved that prolonged applause.

Photos from the event

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