Two reviews worth putting together, as both present musicians who have returned to the Vortex after a lengthy gap.
Of course, I have to admit my own commitment to both on Babel. Richard’s first Hungry Ants album was in 1995 (with Tim Giles, who played with him on Monday) and Steve Buckley recorded two great albums with Chris Batchelor – Life As We Know It and Big Air.
Richard’s last gigs, before sickness won out, were related to his work with pianist John Taylor and indeed they were about to tour together when John sadly died. He is from a generation between Django Bates, a strong influence, and Kit Downes. He has a special way with the music, a certain lyricism (probably reflecting his work with JT) and lacking too much of the minimalism that some of the other pianists show today. The empathy was exceptionally strong with Tim, who seemed to feel more space and imagination than we sometimes hear at the club. Dave Whitford anchored the band tremendously well. I feel that the chance to play with John for about 3 years, really lifted his confidence and imagination.
Steve Buckley’s trio included Steve Watts on bass (who had actually been on Richard’s first album) and Gene Calderazzo on drums. Steve has some special touches when he plays alto, in particular some African style inflections. His playing of standards rings with joy and quirky humour. Steve and Gene kept up, giving as good as they got. So great to have him back on the scene, since his last gig at the club was around 5 years ago. He will be heard more on the scene here in London over coming months, I hope. Especially to hear a return of his special collaboration with Chris Batchelor.