Steve Williamson – St George’s, Bristol

Thursday 23rd May, 2019

It was the write up in the St George’s brochure that drew me to this. That and my new found appreciation for jazz.  A legendary saxophonist was promised. A man who has spent his life studying harmonics. I went to the “in conversation with” beforehand and found Steve to be fascinating. He talked about how listening to bees inspired him, along with fractals and the sounds of birdsong. The beauty and harmony of nature via mathematics, something I can get down with, even if wasn’t to be an easy listening experience.

Support was from String Ting, an all female string quartet reconfiguring jazz standards for strings. Experimental and interesting. I liked. Playing the violin like a guitar, a cello like a bass.  I don’t know my jazz well enough to know what they were covering, but it sounded good to me.

Steve and his band of young players (the drummer is only 17!) blended together experience and enthusiasm to play for over 90 minutes (longer than billed). I did struggle towards the end, it isn’t easy music to listen and concentrate to for that long. Steve is a physical player, stalking the stage whilst also giving off laid back coolness. As St George’s (and my ears) has such a sensitive acoustic I did find the sound mix slightly too loud on the drums which was a shame. When String Ting came back out to add an extra element to the sound I preferred that, then we had a blending of classical and jazz which was much more interesting.

This was a cerebral gig rather than an emotional one, it took work to think about what I was hearing. Steve is clearly an excellent musician and an interesting man, with a real passion for teaching and passing on music as a shared experience. Sadly it didn’t work all that well for me on this night. Not all experiments work out, but the joy is often in the art of the experiment, rather than the result. Perhaps I am not ready for deep dive harmonic jazz just yet.

 

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