It’s over a year now since Alan was able to hoist his tenor onto its strap and blow for the benefit of others. Apart from his wife Kay that is, who might catch the odd strain coming from Alan’s music room.
But while he may be out of the public gaze he’s certainly not forgotten as the article below demonstrates. The prestigious NYC Jazz Record lists prominent birthdays in each month’s issue and this month has featured Alan in a sidebar boxed feature.
Alan Skidmore’s playing in After the Rain is a miracle of sustained poise, inspiration and feeling. Skidmore’s huge and mellow tenor sax sound in the lower register and his control of the quiet singing tone in the often extreme upper register are juxtaposed to great effect on his superb rendering of melody on ‘Too Young to Go Steady’ and in his ensuing solo. His love of each piece shines through and while his main improvised phrases seem passionately sculpted, his quiet asides or afterthoughts have an extraordinary potency. Ian Carr, BBC Music Magazine
Let’s hope it won’t be too long before we can enjoy listening to live jazz again not just through the Zoom sessions that have sustained many fans during the Covid-induced drought.
John Coltrane may well have died on 17 July – indeed, sadly, he did 52 years ago – but on 17 July 2019 his spirit was evident at Café Oto for a 52nd anniversary commemorative concert featuring the Alan Skidmore Quartet. This event was organised by musician and producer Mark Wastell of Confront Recordings who had invited Alan to play at the previous concert in 2017 which marked fifty years since Coltrane’s death and which subsequently featured as a Confront CD set.
The Alan Skidmore Quartet
This year it was an all-Coltrane evening spread over three magnificent sets.
In the first of these Alan’s regular quartet featuring Steve Melling on piano, Andrew Cleyndert on double bass and Miles Levin on drums enchanted the audience with a continuous performance of three tracks from the seminal album A Love Supreme. They started with Resolution, segued into Pursuance and brought the first part of the evening to a close with the rarely performed Psalm. The last strains of this died away into one of those moments of enraptured silence before the extended applause broke out.
Alan plays Psalm
In his introduction Alan had explained that he couldn’t stand up for long periods because of having a leg full of steel rods which resulted from an accident some 40 years ago. So, Alan sat out the second set while the Steve Melling trio were joined by guest tenor saxophonist Ed Jones. Remaining with Coltrane material they treated us to blues and ballads including Mr Day from Coltrane Plays The Blues from 1962, Central Park West from Coltrane’s Sound released in 1964 and Moment’s Notice from the early Blue Trane from 1957.
Steve Melling Trio
The final set saw Alan with the quartet playing one of his most popular numbers After the Rain which Alan recorded with a full orchestra on the album with the same name in 1998. Utterly spellbinding in quieter ballad mode, Alan then wrapped up the evening by asking Ed Jones and Howard Cottle (who had featured alongside Alan in Paul Dunmall’s Sun Ship Quartet two years earlier) to join him on the stage. The intensity, inventiveness and variety of these three tenor sax masters on Transition from the epynymous posthumous album. But they did not overshadow Melling, Cleyndert and especially Miles Levin who all made huge contributions to this barnstorming end to a fabulous evening.
If there is an afterlife, JC would have been smiling broadly and applauding this wonderful tribute.
The finale with (l-r) Steve Melling, Ed Jones, Alan Skidmore, Andrew Cleyndert, Howard Cottle and Miles Levin
The three tenors
UPDATE 27 August 2019
At the Café Oto gig was renowned jazz journalist and reviewer John Fordham. He obviously enjoyed the evening and wrote this for the September issue of Jazzwise magazine.