21 April 2023 was a very significant date. There was a star-studded gig at London’s Café Oto called Impressions of John Coltrane. It was celebrating 60 years since the release of John Coltrane’s revered album Impressions. And another album was previewd that night in Dalston: A Supreme Love a six CD box set covering six decades of playing by Alan Skidmore. Oh, and it also happened to be Alan’s 81st birthday. Quite a night!
As the poster suggested, there were three groups in the evening’s line up. A trio with Ed Jones on tenor sax, Dominic Lash on bass and Mark Wastell on a splendid array of percussion instruments. Mark was also the organiser of the whole thing. This was a contemplative, free improvisatory set which meandered in and out of Coltrane’s 1966 composition The Father and The Son and The Holy Ghost and set the scene for the evening very well. Next up was the David Angol Quartet with David on tenor and soprano saxes and they were joined by Alan Skidmore for a spirited rendition of the tune Impressions. After a short break the final set was played by the Nat Birchall Quintet. Nat is another long-time admirer of Coltrane’s work and also invited Alan to join the quintet for a Coltrane tune Selflessness in which where the interplay between the players was really intense and dramatic.
The finale with everybody on stage was a barnstorming Ascension and brought to an end a brilliant evening of quality jazz dedicated to the memory of the all-time great composer and saxophonist John Coltrane. What a night!
A highlight for me was being able to purchase the first copy to be sold of the CD box set and have Alan sign it for me. A prized possession which contains a fascinating journey over six decades of Skid’s development as a musician. The story is elegantly traced by Richard Williams in the comprehensive booklet of sleeve notes. Highly recommended – as only 8 of the 46 tracks included have been published before so it’s a truly unique opportunity to hear the range of Alan’s playing from early days with his dad through to recent Coltrane commemorative (or thank you) gigs in 2019.
The whole project – box set and concert – was masterminded by Mark Wastell’s Confront Recordings label from which you can also buy this amazing testimonial to a great tenor saxophone player when it goes on official release in a couple of weeks’ time.
Watch this space for the date.
Words and images Mike Raggett April 2023