Jazz for a January Lunchtime

The opening Wednesday lunchtime concert of the Spring term saw Mr Benedict Richardson, this year’s Graduate Musician in Residence perform an array of jazz numbers on the piano. The concert opened with John Lewis’s Afternoon in Paris, its bouncing feel coming from syncopated left hand chords and irregular metres. Executed with authority, this opener immediately put the audience at ease. For the next 20 minutes or so, All Saints Church would become Oakham’s finest jazz venue. Budd Powell’s transcription of It Could Happen To You came next, a fine composition that demanded much from both instrument and performer, its broad, symphonic texture at the opening, some frenetic right hand passages and contrasting lyrical sections with cantabile lines that were projected effortlessly to the west wall of the church. This piece required many different skills, all of which Richardson cogently demonstrated. Two more relaxed numbers followed, each with their own sound-world of harmonies. Song for My Father owes its rhythm to that of the Brazilian Bossa nova, with a repeating chord sequence over which Richardson demonstrated a supreme understanding of modal language with some fluid extemporisation. Quiet Now by Denny Zeitlin is a gentle yet restless piece that deserves wider recognition than it receives; its more daring, exquisite harmonic moments were sensitively handled in this performance. The concert concluded with There Will Never be Another You by Harry Warren. A favourite for many jazz lovers, this piece provided Richardson with the perfect platform to showcase the art of improvisation, showing great digital dexterity in scaling across octaves in a flash, combined with the mental and physical stamina to maintain rhythm and creative invention from start to finish. The opportunity to admire a jazz musician in action without the distractions of more conventional surroundings did a great service to the finer detail within the music and the art of improvisation, which left this concert’s audience impressed and energised.

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