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Journeys with Paul
"Meet me at MacDonald's roundabout". What we do without the golden arches; the landmark of the 20th century? Meeting at the Xativa branch, the usual pleasantries are exchanged. "Alright?" "Yeah man, great"
This is an adventure of very small scale, but I haven't been into Valencia before and I don't like big cities; or so I say. I am excited by the prospect, the architecture especially and the end piece, the gig to which we are going.
Paul is a friend. Unusually he's a man whose extreme talent overshadows my own, and I like him because he doesn't tell me about it. He just shows it.
Music is, well a journey in its own way. And jazz can be a complicated journey. Full of pitfalls, wrong directions highlights, lowlights and ultimately an arrival. A conclusion to what's gone before, a precursor to what is coming. It possesses a rhythm of its own. Multiplied layers of beats to tax, excite and stimulate the mind. And occasionally there's a tune. But this week Paul is fed up with tunes.
Paul is an accomplished musician. A student of the Royal Academy and an enviable scholarship to the Guildhall, he has played with some great musicians and some poor ones. But the poor ones looked and sounded better when he played.
After the standard detour where a school has been built in the middle of the road, we find our destination. A little bar called Matisse. And, in that handy way that bars have, it has a metal cut-out on the wall. I am in the know, and now I'm with the band. Or, at least, the main man. We walk up to the door and check the poster. Trio Plus One. Charmingly, Paul is excited at seeing his photo on the wall, and promises to take a poster. He is the Plus One.
I meet the bass player on the way in "Pete, Jon" the introduction over, and a return to the sound check. The bass sings. It slides and moves, like waves caressing the feet of children in the sea. It is the beauty of a band like this; nobody has to hide behind a costume, a pose or a stage show. It is the music that is important.
The bar fills with a cross section of Valencia and ex-pat punters. Here for the music; not to be seen to be here for the music. Jazz gigs are quite new to the local Spanish, and quite often they are not sure what you do. When to clap, nod or show appreciation to a band or tune. Some find it very difficult; some easier, to clap on every solo or combined solo. Sometimes12 rounds of applause in one tune.
Paul plays his music on trumpet and Flugelhorn. People with more knowledge than I have, compare some of Paul's playing to the greatest in the world. I can just say I think the blokes great.
In a trio, others must play. As Paul is the extra in this gig, there's a drummer and a pianist who play with the bass at regular gigs. The drummer is, frankly phenomenal. So many rhythms running through his body, and into the drum kit. I try tapping my foot. It doesn't work. I try finger and thumb on one had. My imaginary table top drums. Still not going any where with that. What can be done? Let him do it.
The combinations of beats and sub-beats, the under rhythms playing through the main ones, the sounds, the harmonies and the occasional discords; my God, this is good stuff.
Malcolm who plays the keyboard, is understated and all the better for that. Beautiful chord sequences, perfect harmonies, and the creator of some very complicated very good arrangements.
Trio Plus One. Go see them. Scan the papers, search the internet, ask your friends. Do what ever it takes, but do your self a favour and get to see them.