Review: Art Themen

Wansteadium reader Michael Sumsion writes:
On Tuesday at the increasingly popular arts/social/craft beer hub that is E7’s The Wanstead Tap, one of British jazz’s most revered talents, Art Themen, performed two exquisite sets of lyrical bop and modal jazz with the sterling backing of bassist Mike Edmonds, drummer George Hart and guitarist Jeff Green.

The intimate, low-key railway arch venue in Forest Gate (warm, mellow, convivial and resembling a living-room) proved a perfect environment for the quartet’s rhapsodic explorations to take flight.

Themen’s CV encompasses work with such luminaries as Stan Tracey, Michael Garrick, Jack Bruce, Nat Adderley, Alexis Korner, Graham Collier, Joe Cocker, Mike Westbrook and Rod Stewart, and his smeared notes and Charles Lloyd/Coleman Hawkins/Dexter Gordon-inspired phrasing on evergreen standards such as ‘Body And Soul’, ‘Alfie’s Theme’ and ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ constructed buoyant patterns in a quirky, un-showy and economical demonstration of the saxophonist’s art.

He was ably supported by the sensitive, elegaic interplay of his fellow musicians, exhibiting a synergy and a selfless melodicism that enraptured and soothed the refreshingly heterogenous audience.

The band appeared noticeably emboldened and inspired by Themen’s authoritative bending of melody and free-associative playfulness, with Green’s crisp, Wes Montgomery/Grant Green-styled improvisations a particular highlight.

There was a shout out to his mother by Edmonds, a man who used to live within walking distance of this endearing locale, some E7 postcode-based humour and a rapturous sense of formidable musicians pushing themselves without spiralling into whimsy or self-indulgence. It made for a fascinating dialogue, a series of beautiful conversations.

(Not filmed at the Wanstead Tap).

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