brillant review on the 31-08-13 from my gig at the wall to wall jazz festival, see on press pack also
JOHN PAUL GARD TRIO
Organist John Paul Gard is a popular figure on the South Wales and Bristol music scenes, an experienced musician with more than a dozen recordings to his credit. For me he’s a fairly recent discovery, I first encountered Gard’s playing when he brought his Cookbook Project featuring drummer Gethin Jones and the amazing guitarist Alex Hutchins to a packed Queens Head in nearby Monmouth in December 2012.
Today in the Club Room Gard was playing music largely drawn from his latest album “Come On Rita”, a selection of Gard originals that pay tribute to the late, great Jimmy Smith plus some of Gard’s other musical heroes. The record features Jones on drums plus Kevin Glasgow on guitar. Better known as a virtuoso bassist Glasgow was to turn up the following day playing bass with drummer Asaf Sirkis’ trio.
For this performance in the Club Room venue Gard had recruited acclaimed drummer Rob Brian and guitarist Dan Messore whose own “Indigo Kid” album has been favourably reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann web pages. I got the impression that Gard hadn’t played with Messore that often before but the two quickly gelled even though Messore’s guitar was sometimes rather too low in the mix.
The trio opened by stringing three numbers together, “Come On Rita”, “Nice Touch Gene” and “Waltz For Evans”, all sourced from the latest album and dedicated to Jimmy Smith, Gene Ludwig and Pat Martino respectively. Sadly only guitarist Pat Martino is still with us. The music mixed funk and soul jazz influences with Brian laying down a solid back-beat that fuelled the solos of Gard and Messore.
Actually using a two manual Nord C2D keyboard Gard is a virtuoso organist who also plays incredible bass lines with his feet. I’d scribbled a note to mention this but Gard later pointed it out to the audience, his pedal board clearly visible to the viewers and with the organist wearing highly visible bright red sneakers. Introducing the band he stretched out a leg and declared “and on bass my left foot” pointing dramatically at the said appendage. It’s perhaps no surprise that he’s previously traded under the names Pedalboy and Pedalmania.
Things took a different turn with the bossa “Tea 4 Joey” which Gard dedicated to the man mountain that is American organist Joey DeFrancesco. I was lucky enough to see Joey perform with alto saxophonist David Sanborn at the 2011 London Jazz Festival, he also sings and plays the trumpet and is generally “a bit of a character”.
Still drawing on the new album “Fast As Toast” was as rapid as its title might suggest with some fleet fingered soloing from both Gard and Messore and a hugely impressive drum feature from Brian. Based in England;s West Country Brian is a prolific session drummer and drum educator who currently has a high profile gig in the drum chair for legendary punk survivors Siouxsie and The Banshees.
A gospel flavoured “Like Someone In Love” represented a first excursion into standards territory with Gard imposing his own personality on the tune. Then it was back to the album for “J and Jimmy”, the title a reference to an imaginary meeting between Gard and the man still regarded as the greatest of jazz Hammond organists, the great Jimmy Smith. I was also lucky enough to see Smith perform, this time at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 2001. Then in his late 70’s and very frail Smith had to be helped on to the stage but when he sat at the keyboard the years just rolled away even if the set did have to be kept fairly short, a combination of festival scheduling and Smith’s own health problems. Gard’s Smith tribute is a bit of a tear up in the soul jazz style and it produced some great playing from one of The UK’s top organ specialists.
To conclude this highly enjoyable set Gard dipped back into the standards repertoire for a spirited romp through Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia” with both Messore and Gard producing blistering solos. It was interesting to see Messore playing in a different style and context to Indigo Kid and overall his performance was very impressive. Brian, too offered solid support and shone on the occasional drum features. But mainly this was Gard’s show, his knowledge of his instrument and his virtuoso technique makes him a great favourite with audiences. Meanwhile “Come On Rita” is a classic organ recording with all the Hammond you can handle. Gard’s Cookbook group will be doing their special Christmas special in Monmouth again this year (Sunday, December 21st) and I fully intend to be there.