Andy Sheppard and Guests. London, March 2010.

I have been listening to Andy Sheppard’s saxophone for over 20 years – he was one of the foremost musicians of the mid-80s British jazz revival. He plays in lots of different formats; last time I saw him, just before Christmas, he was in a trio with a bass player and iconoclastic drummer Seb Rochford. I really loved that gig, and when I saw Sheppard was playing with Rochford and pianist Rita Marcotulli, I reckoned it was a must-see.

It was a different format though: Sheppard played first with Marcotulli, then with Rochford, then Marcotulli again and finally in trio with both of them. The duet with Marcotulli worked beautifully. The piano was quite sparse, creating a slightly folk-like backdrop to Sheppard’s playing. They shared the credits, playing alternately Marcotulli’s and Sheppard’s compositions. I loved the sound they created – though quiet, it was powerful and emotional.

In contrast, I didn’t think the duets with Rochford worked at all: there didn’t seem to be any connection between them at all. I think it would have been better to hear Sheppard completely solo, because I thought the drums got in the way. (Once again, I disagree dramatically with John Fordham!) This changed completely when they played as a trio, the piano bringing balance to the music. As a trio, I thought the music was excellent – powerful and compelling; great stuff.

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