Nigel Price (gtr); Ross Stanley (Hammond); Matt Home (dms) + Alex Garnett (alt/ten); Vasilis Xenopoulos (ten).
(Review by Lance).
Heads & Tales, an appropriately named double CD. Heads you win, Tales you still win! The trio is two-thirds of the trio that rocked the Jazz Café last month (Steve Brown stood in for Matt Home). To make it even more attractive we have the added presence of Vasilis Xenopoulos and Alex Garnett, either together or individually, on 7 of the 9 tracks on disc one. Xenopoulos is a regular visitor to the area (as recently as last weekend) and Garnett played the Gala in Durham in May.
The Tales half is predominantly Price soloing or duetting with himself on familiar themes: Cherokee; Have You Met Miss Jones; Jeannine; Peace; Come Rain or Come Shine; Minority; Fragments of Blues; Slow Boat to China; Midnight Blue and, as a bonus, Joe Pass' composition Fragments of Blues was videoed during the recording although I have yet to view it.
Guitar playing at the ultimate level!
The Heads disc is an interesting concept. They are all "originals" by Price based on the themes he plays on the other disc. The titles are almost as clever as the tunes!
Blue Genes works around the changes of Jeannine (Genes, Jeans - get it?) Vasy is in on this one and he doesn't disappoint - does he ever? Nor does Nigel before Ross and Matt gangbang Jeannine.
Wet and Dry (Come Rain or Come Shine - don't worry the titles get worse/better!) brings Alex into the fray on alto whilst Vas doesn't need an umbrella and nor does Nigel who picked up the melody line from a 1976 Ed Bickert solo!
Up and Out, a 3/4 blues with a bridge is related to some dialogue from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Matt Holm is given space.
Jimmy Raney's Parker 51 is based on Cherokee and giving Cherokee to Vas is like giving him the freedom of Athens (if he doesn't already have it!)
War is rooted in Horace Silver's Peace and, whilst the tranquility of peace is depicted, so is the sombreness of war. Price, Stanley and Home convey the emotions the titles evoke with Garnett's tenor sax blending in perfectly (we want to hear you up north again man).
R & R has nothing to do with Rock & Roll but relates to Rita and Rigsby - Remember Rising Damp? Not surprisingly, it's based on Have You Met Miss Jones? Alex stays on board and Ross and Nigel suggest that they are well acquainted with Miss Jones!
Majority, based on Gigi Gryce's Minority brings the two horns back and it's up to the listener to say who got the majority!
Junk = Slow Boat to China. Garnett blows tenor on this one.
Smokescape is a take on Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue and has Ross stretching out in after hours mode.
This is just about as good as it gets whether you're into guitar, organ, sax, drums or simply great jazz.
Must get out my Roget's Thesaurus and turn to the superlatives section - I'm running out of them!
Available on Whirlwind Recordings - WR4695 (November 11).
NB: I reviewed this somewhat prematurely in September after the session at the Jazz Café. I've updated it so it appears nearer the official release date.
Nigel Price Trio - Nigel Price, Matt Home, Ross Stanley
Nigel Price remembers the first time he became aware of the Hammond organ. The guitarist who is currently on a mammoth, fifty-six date Arts Council-funded UK tour with his organ trio, has become quite the evangelist for an instrument that technology has tried - but failed – to make obsolete. He spoke to Rob Adams:
He’s well aware of the more easily portable alternatives but craves the real thing, the sound he first heard coming, not from a Jimmy Smith or a Jack McDuff album, although they would come soon afterwards, but from Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland.
“It was Rainy Day, Dream Away,” he says. “They’re just messing around in the studio but it has this shuffle that has to be the grooviest thing ever and in comes Mike Finnigan on organ and I just thought, I want that sound.”
As the young Price checked out the jazz guitar and its history, it was inevitable that he would come across the Hammond sound at some point. He’s often bracketed with Wes Montgomery, who made some of the coolest organ trio albums in the jazz canon, although he’s more of a Joe Pass fan, and if his Jimi Hendrix experience hadn’t made him a Hammond devotee, then hearing Jimmy Smith’s The Boss, with George Benson, would have clinched it.
“I love all these guys, all the great American players, but there was something really inspiring, for me, in being able to hear someone like Jim Mullen live rather than on record,” says Price. “Jim tears it up on every gig and he’s always really exciting but I particularly liked the fact that he’d be doing that in some local pub or club where he’s so close you can see what he’s doing. Dave Cliff was another inspiration and another example of someone who had it all going on and was playing locally.”
Talking of yet another, local-ish hero, the recently departed Louis Stewart, takes Price into the slightly more geeky territory of guitar string gauges. He’s not one for the super-slinky range, preferring the chunky, bluesy sound that comes from what he calls piano wire. Call it suffering for your art - with blisters – but there’s a triumph in the face of adversity quality, he says, about playing on heavy gauge strings, a sense of commitment that also shines through in turning up at the furthest away club with a Hammond organ.
“You can see it registering on people’s faces when they look at the stage and there’s the Hammond with a Leslie speaker sitting there,” he says. “These are not items that the average person is going to carry on his or her back – although I’ve seen it done. The sheer size of them shows conviction and audiences get that.”
Aside from offering a consistency, or near-consistency, in terms of sound quality, the organ trio is also self-contained. It doesn't suffer from the variable quality of instrument that can afflict a touring band that requires a piano and, says Price, it can change quite significantly if a horn is added.
“It’s very immediate in terms of communication between the three of us,” he says. “I miss bass players but with organ and guitar it’s very easy to signal just with a twitch of an eyebrow what you intend to do. Plus when Ross is soloing he has the basslines covered and there’s a gap in the middle begging for someone to comp, and that’s my place. I find it a really creative, sociable unit.”
The sociability extends to the audience for Price. As was the case with Cannonball Adderley’s quintet, he says, the organ trio format makes for music that communicates directly with the listeners as well as between the players. Price is a gregarious sort by nature anyway and isn’t likely to be found “basking in my own self-loathing” in the dressing room between sets.
“It sounds a bit hippy-ish but I mean it when I say that music should be a shared experience,” he says. “It means the world to me that people come out to hear Ross, Steve and me and I couldn’t stand the thought of us making a sound and people hating it. I try to chat with as many people in the audience as possible on every gig. You want them to feel involved and of course you want them to come back next time but if we can’t all enjoy it in the moment, what’s the point?”
The Nigel Price Organ Trio – Nigel Price, Ross Stanley (organ) and Steve Brown (drums) is at a venue near you before Christmas.
The most inspiring letter from the hardest-working musician in the country?
BY PETER BACON on 28 JULY 2016 • ( 1 )
Two bold claims there I know, and borrowed shamelessly from the kind of overwrought style-shite that abounds on social media. But have a read of this and see if in this instance such hyperbole might not be bloody well spot on. I make no apology for having ripped this off wholesale from guitarist Nigel Price’s Facebook timeline. If he objects I am sure I will hear from him in no uncertain terms.
And do check out the dates at the end – there is bound to be one near you. This man needs our support!
Here is his post in full:
I felt as dejected as the next person when funding for jazz touring was lost in 2014.
I kinda stewed on it.
I knew it wouldn’t stop me because I’m a tenacious twat with the wherewithal to tackle a big application direct to the Arts Council. But I felt bad for all the young musicians who would miss out on the opportunity to tour the UK and develop themselves. And also the venues who relied on the same funding. I have spoken to many promoters around the country who are literally one bad turnout away from closing. We need an interface between musicians and the Arts Council, of that there is no doubt, as precious few will take on these torturous forms. I’m sure (and I hope) the tour support will return soon. So, in the meantime, whilst I couldn’t directly help that lost generation financially I felt I could try to boost attendances across the UK and do what I could to keep the flame alive on my watch if I were to encourage links between colleges and local jazz venues as well as attracting others via workshops. As well as get a no nonsense team of badasses to join me on the mission, of course… Matt Home, Vasilis Xenopoulos, Alex Garnett, Ross Stanley, Steve Brown, Dean Masser and Brandon Allen are all involved. There will be other special guests too. I got my teeth right into this one and I shot for the GODDAM MOON! Ain’t no doubt about that. I have sweated blood over this for the last 18 months, during a particularly difficult patch of life too. People who know me well will know how horrendous the last couple of years have been for us. Anybody who has organised a tour will know what an absolutely monumental achievement this is, and how absolutely soul destroying it can be whilst in the midst of it. I am pleased to say that I did, in fact, HIT the goddam moon and with the help of the Arts Council, this vision of a ‘shot in the arm’ for the UK jazz scene is now an actual reality. 56 concerts, funding for 14 young support bands and 15 workshops, the proceeds of which are going directly to the clubs. Without wishing to be too gushing, patronising or cause any raising of eyebrows I just want any musicians out there who feel that all is lost in the current climate can look at this and realise that it IS possible. Stick to your guns. I hope some of you will come and join us at one or more of these. xx
Article in the Telegraph Sep 2014
Nigel Price Organ Trio with Vasilis Xenopoulos
(Lauderdale House, November 13th 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Aha, so this is it, the real thing. This is the level that a band can get to after thirty gigs of what will now be a thirty-nine rather than a forty date tour (*). This is the stage - so rarely reached - where every arrangement has been learnt, internalized, completely owned and the sheet music has (just about) disappeared. This is the level of empathy which still allows each band-member the freedom to take the others completely by surprise, deliver the unexpected, and make them smile. This is how it is when every ending is shaped, landed, parked with the care you would expect on a commercial recording. When every soloist is given the space to find the limelight and (metaphorically) dance, and then to exit, taking the applause from a packed room. Would that it could happen more often.
I had interviewed Nigel Price before this tour started for the Telegraph, so it was particularly satisfying to see how all the hope and eagerness in that interview has now translated itself into something so refreshing and enjoyable. The audience's appreciation, applause and affection for the band warmed and grew steadily throughout the evening
Nigel Price had his virtuoso moments - such as a solo section on Emily Remler's Blues for HERB - of which Martin Taylor would have been proud. Vasilis Xenopoulos makes a great sound on his Cannonball tenor sax and shapes every solo superbly with facility and fluency. Matt Home is always impeccable and crisp and precise, but I don't think I've ever heard him play with the sense of adventure he had last night. At the heart of every texture is Ross Stanley, finding the variety of a Jimmy Smith or a Joey de Francesco, but also pulling the time around with fabulous madcap inventiveness.
I have one personal moment of complete surprise which really stands out. It was just after the interval. Vasilis Xenopoulos' solo on I Have Never Been in Love had started suavely in Buddy Tate mode, and had grown in intensity, bluesiness and dirt. The packed room at Lauderdale House had given him one of the loudest rounds of applause of the evening. It was the moment for Ross Stanley on Hammond organ to start off. But where to go? Where indeed. Straight to the full-on brooding multi-layered chromaticism of an 1890's German church organ loft with Max Reger. Stanley was clearly enjoying himself there: he visited similar treacly, gooey territory later, on Detour Ahead.
This was a five-star gig, with moments to savour throughout. It is to be hoped that the latter stages of this tour, which ends in Sevenoaks - of all places - on Dec 17th - leads to a recording. Get thee to a nearby studio?!
The Evening Standard. Jazz Cd of the week. May 2014 Nigel Price Organ Trio Hit the Road (33 Records) ★★★★✩
Hit the Road aptly describes the work ethic of a brilliant guitarist currently playing so many London and
Home Counties gigs that his satnav must be in permanent meltdown. Slickly backed by organist Pete Whittaker and drummer Matt Home, Price improvises expertly in an eclectic style indebted to George Benson (for funk), Wes Montgomery (soul), Pat Martino (impetus) and Johnny Smith (chordwork), among others. Nimble originals Hot Seat, Bizzy Bee and the title track rub shoulders with such worthy standards as Chelsea Bridge, Lover Man and Up Jumped Spring. Some say the guitarist’s acid test is solo accompaniment of singers and in another of this month’s releases, Come Rain or Come Shine (Roomspin Records), Nigel joins Georgia Mancio to demonstrate that he has this facility nailed too. Jack Massarik
“The skillful Price lovingly celebrated Montgomery's languidly bluesy lyricism and breezy swing, and the group heated up this 50 year-old style with an irresistible conviction.” - The Guardian “There’s an exhilarating tight-loose swing and old-school honestly about Price’s brand of soul-bop that leaves you panting” – Mojo “Very few players could manage playing as fluent, imaginative and technically impeccable guitar as Price does here” – Evening Standard “The neatness, tidiness and tightness of this band at full tilt in numbers like SOS by Wes Montgomery and Mozambique by Nigel Price was compelling. But they can also do low-down and loose. Price does skittering flautando harmonics disappearing up the fingerboard as well as any guitarist in the UK.” – LondonJazz “Nigel Price is a blazing guitar player. He has serious chops and is able to demonstrate them wonderfully in the context of the standard repertoire.” Just Jazz Guitar
Review of Heads & Tales in the Guardian, December 2011