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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
MARTIN TAYLOR AND DIDIER LOCKWOOD
Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, August 26th 2006
Martin Taylor MBE (awarded by the Queen for ‘services to music’) has been playing a residency at the Pizza Express Jazz Club (“my favourite jazz club in London” says Martin). It’s a tribute to his eminence in the jazz business that during a ten day period he is joined by artistes as diverse as trumpeter Guy Barker, Scottish singer Alison Burns, and Scottish pianist and composer, and long time Taylor collaborator, David Newton (did I mention that Mr Taylor lives in Ayrshire in Scotland, where he hosts his own international guitar festival to raise funds to promote guitar teaching in schools?). Tonight he’s playing with French violinist Didier Lockwood (I don’t think I can really call him a ‘scraper’) about whom I’m sure Serge knows far more than I. In fact it was only a vaguely recognised name on the programme, but the genius of Taylor had impressed me so much when we last saw him that both pizza, and Mr Lockwood, seemed worth the risk.
Now, I’m not sure if Her Jazzesty popped down for a pizza and a peek at her loyal guitarist but clearly a lot of other folk did. It’s a holiday weekend so the basement club is filled with tourists and out of towners as well as devout fans. It also turns out that half of Mr Lockwood’s family are in too. There are three very well behaved would be guitar boys from North London who have come early to get fretside seats, but by Taylor’s third big solo they’re crying coca-cola tears into their ice cream sundaes, and wondering if they shouldn’t take up the bass instead. And there’s the rather bewildered looking table of blue-shirted Francophile Japanese, who’d bought their tickets from a Soho tout on the promise ‘that they’d get to see Didier play real close up’.
Lockwood and Taylor first teamed up when they played with Stephane Grappelli in the 1970s, which was for both of them the bedrock of their subsequent solo careers. It’s fitting then that one of the songs they play is Grapelli’s ‘Nuages’. To be honest I had feared a bit of a Hot Club de Paris nostalgia night, but thankfully nothing could have been further from the truth. Taylor is noted for his ability to play both fluid bass lines and imposing and lyrical melodies at the same time – tonight he had a willing bass player in Lockwood, who was happy to pluck bass lines as Taylor improvised effortless solos, as he demonstrated on another Grapelli favourite, Sony Rollin’s ‘Pent up house’. Taylor is a remarkably laid back and apparently jolly fellow – he grins rather than grimaces his way through his solos, and some of his music is a humorous as it is humbling – take for example ‘Down at Kokomo’s” (which for some reason I has thought was called ‘Rum Beach’” where with dampened strings he turns his guitar into a steel band – we could have been in Notting Hill - and manages to change key by adjusting the position of his capo mid-tune. He also played an absurdly complex solo on his beautiful Vanden semi-acoustic guitar using only what would describe as (no doubt incorrectly) apparent harmonics. All you really need to know is that it was difficult and delicious.
I’m not sure if it was during this piece or the next that Didier struck out with his wah-wah violin, but as the evening continued he became an increasingly dominant player in the partnership, encouraged by Taylor. When he spoke in broken English he apologised “that I was going to be a nice violinist but then my brother showed me jazz” as he introduced esteemed pianist-sibling Francis Lockwood (“who is just here as a tourist”) who formed a trio, and then dueted with his brother, at which point it seemed the evening was getting very, well…French. Didier Lockwood then played a remarkable solo piece (“from middle east to middle earth” I scrawled in my notebook) in which he brought into play the full gamut of his heavily laden pedals board. I suppose it might have been described as “show off” (he certainly did the grimace thing) but it held the audience spellbound as he used loops, delays and echoes, and every part of his violin, to paint a vivid series of musical pictures. My memory is of a Hebredian seashore with wild surf and seagulls, but our Japanese friends got very animated when they swore they could hear a chanting football crowd. Quite simply remarkable.
I’m not very good with jazz tunes, and not familiar with Taylor’s recorded work, so there’s no point trying to give a set list, although I’m sure they finished with something that sounded very much like ‘Putting on the style’, which was of course exactly what they had done. I can simply do no more than urge you to see Taylor if you can – he tours extensively and is simply a pleasure to listen to. And as for Mr Lockwood, well he was a real discovery – you should go and see him too if you can. - Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)



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