HOWARD BRITZ & JONATHAN GEE'S
NEW YORK TO LONDON EXPRESS
Thursday 18th September - Bonington Theatre
REVIEW – by Trudie Squires
THE New York to London Express steamed into Arnold last night driven by ex-pat New York bass player Howard Britz and top UK jazz pianist Jonathan Gee. And how these two musicians drove this fabulous transatlantic quintet; the whole group pivoted around Britz's huge bass sound and Gee's amazing wizardry at the piano. The other British member of the quintet was trumpeter Quentin Collins, who like all the other musicians is a composer and leader of his own outfit. Collins possessed a ferocious attack, but his clear bell-like tone and beautifully weighted phrasing was the perfect foil to the searing alto-sax of New Yorker Will Vinson. The two front-liners combined well in the ensemble passages, producing a light and airy sound, which bounced along in the up-tempo numbers. The quintet's highly skilled and dextrous percussionist was New Yorker Sylvia Cuenca. She was a superb drummer, always listening, a great punctuator and fine soloist. The quintet's programme abounded with originals by Britz, which included intoxicating themes and moving ballads. The outstanding Goodbye was a tribute to his late father - a very beautiful and thoughtful piece with Britz's contribution played with great feeling and maximum dexterity. In Scatterbug, another Britz original, Collins played a breathtaking solo and Gee was again prominent, showing off his dazzling technique. New York Roast, played at terrific pace, found all the players in top form and Thelonious Monk's Dream provided a delightful and popular encore.
For the whole evening Howard was a marvellous communicator. He described the circumstances that inspired most of his compositions. He also paid glowing tributes to the facilities Bonington and the organisers for their constant efforts to make bands welcome at, what is one of Britain's most prestigious jazz venues.