JIM RATTIGAN QUARTET
Bonington Theatre, High Street, Arnold
Thursday, 5 October 2006
REVIEW - by Trudie Squires
THE French horn is a very rare instrument in jazz and when I asked Jim Rattigan if he found it a difficult instrument on which to interpret his ideas he replied that there are smaller and easier-to-play versions with larger mouthpieces but they do not have the French horn sound that he loves - a sound that he has strived to make into a viable jazz voice throughout his career. Indeed, the performance with his quartet showcased his effortless approach, pure golden tone and faultless technique. Along with Hans Koller playing piano and electronic keyboards, Dave Whitford (bass) and Gene Calderazzo (drums), he played original material and compositions by such jazz greats as Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk, Joe Henderson and Steve Swallow. The Strayhorn numbers, Chelsea Bridge and Upper Manhattan Medical Group - a tune immortalised by Duke Ellington - were particularly suited to the horn's gorgeous sound and Rattigan's ability to negotiate its 14-foot length of brass piping round some tight musical corners; which he managed admirably in a tirade of cascading notes.
Eiderdown, a composition by Steve Swallow, settled down into an easy swinging tempo and was notable for Koller's remarkable keyboarding; skilfully blending notes from his left hand on the piano with his right hand on the keyboards. John Coltrane's Central Park West was also perfect for the French horn's rippling tone, with superbly crafted and singing lines. Koller's keyboards contrasted vividly on occasions with the French horn, sometimes achieving its dynamics by various levels of distortion. I found his efforts on the Bonington's magnificent Steinway more in keeping with the mellow tones of the French horn. In the rhythm section bassist Whitford had a lovely organic tone, mainly due to his use of gut strings. His solos too were nimble and superbly delivered. Ex- New Yorker Calderazzo was an agile, restless percussionist, constantly listening and soloing impeccably.