St Albans fans delighted by jazz God Stan Tracey

AT interval time at his gig, promoted by local group fansofstan at the Maltings Arts Theatre, Stan Tracey, St Albans resident and jazz god, made a laconic CD sales pitch. “Remember,” he said, “today is Make An Old Man Happy Day.”

Don’t know about the old man, but the sell-out audience was very happy indeed.

This was possibly fansofstan’s best Stan gig ever. There was instant rapport among the musicians – Stan on piano with his usual sidekicks, Andrew Cleyndert on bass and son Clark on drums, and front men Mornington Lockett on saxophones and Mark Nightingale on trombone.

From the opener Blues at Random, one of Stan’s own, with Mornington dropped in at the deep end with a brash and uncompromising solo, we were in the presence of so much energy – and not a longeur in sight.

Highlights? How about Triple Celebration, another from the Tracey oeuvre, whose joyful Latin rhythms suggested that a Sonny Rollins influence is around Stan as well as Ellington and Monk, a point underlined later with a sparkling rendition of the veteran saxophonist’s Playing in the Yard. Or take the brooding trombone featured in Easy Living or the haunting tenor of Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge.


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Wily as ever, Stan began the final number with no introduction, just a typically mischievous preamble which had the musicians alert and focused. At last, quiet smiles of recognition dawned, and Mark blasted into a solo of Autumn Leaves fit to strip bare all the London planes in St Peter’s Street.

So good was this band, that fansofstan was tempted simply to book the lot of them again for next year. But will there be a next year? For months, the council has been considering turning The Maltings Arts Theatre, a space ideally suited to this kind of event, into a mainly film venue, with a limited number of live performance slots. All could be decided by council cabinet on Tuesday, November 2. And if this inspires you to protest, phone 01727 834113 for more information.

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You could make an old man very happy…

MARION HAMMANT

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