- John-paul Gard and Jon Daton Tour review 2016
"The clarity, skill and sheer elegance of Dalton's playing was undeniably impressive". Ian
Mann enjoys Brecon Jazz Club's first regular event at their new home, The Muse.
Jon Dalton Trio, Brecon Jazz Club, The Muse, Brecon, 20/09/2016.
Tonight’s sold out event was the first club night to be hosted by Brecon Jazz Club at their new
regular venue The Muse, an exhibition, community and performance space located in the
town’s former museum.
The Club had previously utilised the venue for two events during the recent Brecon Jazz
Weekend and felt that these had gone well. The Muse offers a different shaped room to the
Club’s old home, the long, narrow bar at Theatr Brycheiniog. With good acoustics, better sight
lines and a genuinely Bohemian atmosphere sometimes reminiscent of a London jazz club The
Muse will hopefully come to be loved by the Brecon Jazz Club audience, even those who may
have initial misgivings about the change of location. Certainly the size of the audience for this
inaugural performance offers great hope for the future.
Turning now to the music which was provided by a trio led by the guitarist Jon Dalton and
featured the hugely popular organist John Paul Gard. Dalton was born in the UK but moved to
Los Angeles in 1999, quickly establishing himself on the jazz scene in his new home. Although
still a frequent visitor to the UK there’s a growing tendency amongst promoters and audiences
to think of him as an American.
It was in 2006 during a return to the UK that Dalton first met up with the Bristol based
organist John Paul Gard and the two have worked together on a regular basis ever since. In
2009 they collaborated as the Jon Dalton Trio on the album “Warm Ghosts in a Cold World”
with the line up being completed by the drummer Andy Roger. The album featured a number
of Dalton and Gard originals, some of them still in Dalton’s current repertoire, plus a selection
of largely familiar jazz standards. The album represented a follow up to Dalton’s 2003 début
“The Gift”, an album of all original material recorded in Los Angeles.
Dalton began playing guitar at the age of seven and later worked as a pop and rock musician,
touring extensively in the UK and Europe. It was a television performance by the late, great Joe
Pass that first steered him in the direction of jazz and he names Tal Farlow, Pat Martino, Wes
Montgomery, Hank Garland and Jim Hall as other significant influences. Dalton favours a crisp,
clean, unadorned jazz guitar sound with little sustain or distortion and no effects pedals or
other gizmos and gimmicks. He uses a variety of classic arch top jazz guitars but tonight
deployed a Washburn J-10, the guitar that features on the “Warm Ghosts” album.
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 bands Pedalmania and Cookbook Project, the latter a 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 number 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. More recently I’ve
seen him perform with the Dalton trio at the Queens Head and in a duo with drummer Phill
‘Redfox’ O’ Sullivan at Brecon Jazz Club’s Christmas event in December 2015. Whether playing
an authentic Hammond or a more contemporary substitute Gard is an exciting performer, an
inspired soloist and accompanist who can always be relied upon to deliver the goods.
Tonight was the first time that I’d witnessed the playing of the young Italian born drummer
Paolo Adamo who moved to Bristol in 2012 and is becoming increasingly well known on the
jazz scene in the West Country and Wales. Adamo leads his own Thelonious Monk inspired
quintet and has also played with trumpeter Ben Thomas, saxophonist Joe Northwood, singer
Emma Harris, the Empyreal Quartet and the pan- African collective Mankala among others. He
proved to be a highly effective foil for Dalton and Gard while also making a strong contribution
to the music in his own right.
The trio kicked off the evening with “Up Town Blues” which introduced the sound of Dalton’s
modestly amplified Washburn and Gard’s unique set up featuring a Nord 20 double manual
keyboard and a Nord 27 pedal-board. In Gard’s groups the lack of a bass player has never been
an issue as the organist plays the bass lines with his feet and makes this something of a feature
of the performance with his pedal-board always visible to audiences. It’s always fascinating to
watch him at work and tonight was to be no exception. Solos came from both Dalton and Gard
as Adamoo’s briskly brushed drum grooves aided Gard’s feet in the process of driving the
The jazz standard “Our Day Will Come” featured Dalton’s singing, bebop flavoured melody
lines with Adamo switching to sticks as the music gathered momentum. Gard, a fluent and
often fiery soloist also weighed in with a typically exciting contribution.
“Warm Ghosts” features an engaging version of Miles Davis’ “So What !” which here saw the
famous bass line alternating between Dalton’s top strings and Gard’s pedals as the pair shared
the solos prior to a concluding drum feature from Adamo.
Also from the “Warm Ghosts” album Dalton’s own “Mocha Trouble” was a Latin-esque
variation on 1960s “cocktail jazz” with Adamo’s brushed grooves subtly propelling the solos
from Dalton and Gard.
“High Five”, written by the American guitarist Chuck Loeb, increased the energy levels and
added an element of funk to the performance thanks to Adamo’s stick driven grooves. The
piece was selected for the trio by Gard who delighted in the opportunity to put his keyboard
through its paces as he shared the solos with Dalton. Gard’s Nord set up may not be an
authentic Hammond but it’s a highly effective substitute that serves the music well.
Gard’s own “John Meets Pat”, sourced from the “Come On Rita” album, helped to keep the pot
bubbling with some high energy soloing from the leader alongside an increasingly animated
Dalton and with Adamo enjoying a closing drum flourish. Many of Gard’s compositions are
tributes to other musicians, the title of this a reference to the time that he got to play with the
great Pat Martino, a shared hero for both Gard and Dalton.
A surprisingly brisk “Autumn Leaves” represented an appropriate choice for the time of year
with features for all three musicians.
A highly successful first half concluded with Gard’s “T 4 Joey”, his tribute to fellow organist
Joey De Francesco. Versions of the tune appear on both “Warm Ghosts” and “Come On Rita”
but the piece has lost none of its appeal despite being around for some considerable time.
After the composer’s opening theme statement on keyboards this surprisingly robust jazz
waltz incorporated features from Dalton, Gard and Adamo before a sprightly set of guitar and
This first set was very well received by the Brecon crowd and it almost seemed a shame to call
a halt, particularly in view of the fact that the audience had thinned out a little by the time of
the start of the second set.
“Let’s go to a beach in Brazil” said an increasingly chatty and confident Dalton as “Girl From
Ipanema” kicked off the second half, Adamo’s bossa rhythms inspiring the solos from Dalton
“We’re touring the world through music” remarked Dalton, clearly warming to his theme,
“Let’s go to a 1960s organ club in Philadelphia”. This proved to be another Miles Davis classic
from “Kind Of Blue”, this time the 3/4 opus “All Blues” with soulful solos from Dalton and Gard.
Wes Montgomery’s “Four On Six” has always been a popular tune for guitarists and Dalton is
no exception. The leader impressed on this invigorating version with Gard also weighing in
strongly on a tune whose title refers to nothing more complicated than “four fingers on six
Dalton’s arrangement of the ballad “Dancing In The Dark” was inspired by Diana Krall’s
version and was first heard by the guitarist on the California radio station KWXY. Dalton’s
playing of the melody over Gard’s Hammond (Nord) swells was highly effective as Adamo
provided suitably sympathetic brushed accompaniment.
The standard “Days of Wine and Roses” was introduced by Dalton as a “swing tune” and the
trio proceeded to do just that with features for all three protagonists.
Sticking with the standards repertoire “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” featured some of
Dalton’s most agile and fleet fingered soloing of the set, something that drew a particularly
rapturous eruption of spontaneous applause from the audience.
The title track of Gard’s album “Come On Rita” was played at the request of Club member
David Brockwell who had had a word with Dalton and Gard during the interval. This proved to
be good call as the piece impressed with its hard grooving energy and proved to be a good
vehicle on which to feature all three members of the group.
The brief but well deserved encore proved to be a blues made up on the fly but based around
an already familiar structure.
Overall this highly successful event represented an excellent start for Brecon Jazz Club in their
new home. A large audience was highly appreciative of the trio’s efforts and all three
musicians could congratulate themselves on a good night’s work.
I was impressed by this first sighting of Adamo and Gard’s playing is always a delight, the man
is always right on the money. I have to admit that I occasionally found Dalton’s playing a little
too low key and diffident and his habit of turning away from the audience to face the band was
sometimes rather distracting. Nevertheless the clarity, skill and sheer elegance of his playing
was undeniably impressive and I fully understand and respect his commitment to that classic
‘orthodox’ jazz guitar sound.