- Brecon Jazz Club Review 2015 xmas show
JOHN PAUL GARD and PHILL REDFOX O’SULLIVAN
While Collins and Evans represented an interesting new discovery Gard and O’Sullivan were
musicians I was already fairly familiar with.
John-paul Gard is a Bristol based organist who has been on the scene for over a decade and
who has accrued a strong following in South Wales and the English West Country. His projects
have included the band Pedalmania and Cookbook Project, his trio with guitarist Alex
Hutchings and drummer Gethin Jones. His latest album is “Come On Rita”, a trio recording
made with Kevin Glasgow, best known as a virtuoso bassist but here appearing on guitar, plus
Jones at the drums.
I’ve seen Gard perform live on a couple of occasions with the Cookbook Project at the Queens
Head in Monmouth, an event that always takes place on the last Saturday before Christmas
and which is always very well attended and also highly exciting. Gard also performed at the
2013 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in Abergavenny with a trio featuring drummer Mike Brian, of
Siouxsie and The Banshees fame, plus Indigo Kid guitarist Dan Messore.
Tonight Gard was teamed in a duo with drummer Phill ‘Redfox’ O’Sullivan, another popular
figure on the South Wales jazz scene who has played with saxophonist Martha Skilton, The
New Era Reborn Brass Band and many others. He has performed with some of Brecon Jazz
Club’s overseas visitors including pianists Juan Galliardo and Atsuko Shimada and led the
house band at the inaugural Wall2Wall Jazz Festival in Abergavenny in 2013 where he
accompanied saxophonists Christian Brewer, Martha Skilton and Ben Treacher plus trumpeter
Damon Brown. O’Sullivan is an accomplished, highly supportive musician who always delivers
in any musical situation.
Tonight was the first time that Gard and O’ Sullivan had performed as a duo but one would
never have guessed as they struck up an easy and instinctive rapport from the start. The lack
of a bass player was never an issue as Gard handled the duties with his feet, something that
he’s always made a feature of with his pedalboard clearly visible to audiences. Similarly the
absence of guitar was hardly noticed as this merely gave Gard more scope to roam around the
two manual keyboard on his Nord C20 - not actually a Hammond then, but sounding
remarkably similar to one. Apart from hard core organ aficionados I doubt if many people
actually noticed, and regardless of who the manufacturer was the music still sounded great.
Gard is one of the best organ soloists around, a fiery and fluent player who is something of a
local hero but who is arguably deserving of a national reputation.
The duo started off with the title track from “Come On Rita” , a lively start that demonstrated
the impressive technical skills of both musicians.
The jazz standard “My One And Only Love” introduced a touch of gospel to the arrangement
and also included the first of many quotes as Gard wove a quote from “Jingle Bells” into his
solo. Well it was the last club night before Christmas and the whole gig had a relaxed, almost
party atmosphere about it.
The next piece was unannounced but I suspect that it was the Gard original “Waltz For Evans”
(I assume that’s Bill not Gareth) from the “Come On Rita” album. Gard’s soloing was typically
fleet fingered and this time he managed to weave the melody from “Greensleeves” into the
fabric of the tune. Great fun.
Many of Gard’s titles are dedication to other musicians. “Tea 4 Joey” honours that giant (in
every sense) of the Hammond Joey de Francesco and is based on a chord sequence by guitarist
Pat Martino, with whom De Francesco once played. The piece was played in bossa nova style
with O’Sullivan responding well to Gard’s melodic prompting.
The duo’s version of “Moanin’”, the hard bop classic written by pianist Bobby Timmons for Art
Blakey’s Jazz Messengers was played at the request of Brecon Jazz Club’s Lynne Gornall. Gard
and O’ Sullivan had great fun with this with O’Sullivan’s military snare patterns recalling
another Blakey classic, “Blues March”. Meanwhile Gard’s quote laden solo saw him trying to
play “twelve songs in about two minutes”, almost inevitably including “Jingle Bells” again.
The trio wound up their set with a tune by Larry Goldings, another of Gard’s Hammond
heroes. “I Would Like To Be Your Jellyman” saw the duo getting funky with plenty of space for
O’Sullivan to express himself with a series of drum breaks prior to a full length solo. After the
funk came a gospel flavoured coda as Gard finished with a flourish.
Except things weren’t quite over yet. Lynne Gornall invited Collins and Evans back to the stage
and the evening concluded with a good natured jam by the newly formed quartet. First up was
Collin’s “Number One Blues” which saw the composer singing the lyrics as Evans and Gard
traded solos on guitar and organ before O’Sullivan rounded things off with another drum
“Flip Flop Fly” was played as a kind of blues shuffle and a highly enjoyable evening of music
finished with “Money”, not the Pink Floyd song but the one covered by The Beatles with Evans
and Gard again feeding off each other with the organist delivering another playful, quote filled
All in all this was a hugely enjoyable event that delivered some excellent playing and singing
from both acts and it was great way to conclude Brecon Jazz Club’s highly successful 2015
programme as everybody went home happy and full of the Christmas spirit.
Lynne was also able offer us some encouraging news on the future of Brecon Jazz festival
following the cessation of Orchard Media’s involvement with the event. Brecon Town Council
is very keen that the event should continue, understandable given how much money the
Festival contributes to the local economy, and it now seems likely that something will happen
next year with local promoters such as Brecon Jazz Club becoming involved. Brecon Jazz 2016
may not feature the big international names that we’ve become accustomed to but something
should happen, probably with more of a focus on local musicians. And as tonight’s two acts so
capably demonstrated there is plenty of excellent local talent around.