a rainy night in Frith Street, it seems like it's raining all over
the world. The bonus for performers on such nights is that the casual
tourists stay away and only the dedicated music lovers venture out.
So it was last night that the groups of US saxman Bob Sheppard and
local heroine Rachel Calladine basked in the enthusiastic attention
every artist craves. Naturally, both responded by giving their best.
Calladine, a straight-backed, athletic blonde in
a little black number, gained confidence to the extent of dismissing
her group for the closing number of the first set, and delivering
a soulful Knocks Me off My Feet with only pianist Jim Watson for company.
As a dramatic arrangement and a blow for individuality, it worked
Sheppard is a sort of jazz Clark Kent, whose mild
manner and bespectacled, studious appearance conceals a super-versatile
talent. He recently went solo after sideman service with big names
including guitarist Mike Stern, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and pianist
Chick Corea. His main income, however, continues to come from Hollywood's
film and recording studios, which explains him being the bee's knees
on a whole clutch of instruments.
A man who understands sound checks, he was perfectly
miked, and he wore a new-fangled saxophone sling arranged so that
his rear trouser braces, and not the back of his neck, took the strain.
Opening on tenor sax with a clever original based on the changes of
How Deep is the Ocean, he produced some shapely ideas and effortless
harmonics that extended his dry, post-Trane sound to three full octaves.
Bassist Jeff D'Angelo and drummer Jeff Ballard drove him tidily along,
and Billy Childs, a typically agile US pianist, soloed fluently In
the approved Hancock-meets-Tyner style.
Switching to soprano sax for a Latinate ballad,
Quiet Girl, Sheppard's warm sound avoided the usual snake-charmer
effect, a trend confirmed by his gentle flute solo on the standard,
I Fall in Love too Easily. As he progressed through his instruments
one began to wonder what his favourite was. His might not be one of
your life-altering weeks here, perhaps, but it is certainly one of
solid contemporary craftsmanship.--Jack Massarik