Sunday sun and showers in Hoxton surrounded an enterprising gig at the Hundred Years Gallery.
Percussionist and record producer Mark Wastell teamed up with tenor saxophone legend Alan Skidmore for a unique duo for saxophone and percussion.
The gallery’s basement holds about 25-30 people about half of whom seemed to be tenor sax players keen to experience this unique pairing. In his introduction, Mark recalled his first exposure to Skid’s music over thirty years ago and the striking and long-lasting impression it had on him.
For his part Alan warned that it had been two years since he’d played in public and that was in front of a full house at the Royal Albert Hall in the company of 60 other saxophonists in the tribute to Ronnie Scott.
Well with this line up it was always going to be a bit different. Added to which they had not rehearsed or ever played together except in a big ensemble number at Café Oto’s Coltrane tribute a few years back.
Since his childhood, Alan has always been passionate about the drums although his dad warned him off the seat with the advice: “You’ll always be first in and last out of the gig” but today he had several opportunities to play percussion alongside Mark whose array of drums, gongs, bells, shruti box and assorted devices must take him hours to stow and transport.
The first set began quietly and built into a sensuous soundscape which formed a base for Alan to join in with his tenor. There was a blues and ballad feel at the start but then, prompted by Mark’s ever-changing swirling textures and urgent beats, the Alan of SOS days emerged seeming to revel in free improvisation once again.
The second set featured a lot of call and response with ideas being thrown across the room between two musicians who were clearly enjoying each other’s company.Some of Mark’s sounds reminded me of Japan and at other times the duo took me off to the Africa of Ubizo, Alan’s collaboration with South African musicians from back in the early 2000s. The session just pointed up Mark’s ability to create a huge variety of sounds and Alan’s versatility on his instrument with lush melodic passages interspersed with honks and squeals, scales and octave leaps.
It included a sequence with both of them creating wonderful patterns on the drums. There were inevitably echoes of Coltrane from the tenor most notably with A Love Supreme featuring strongly towards the end.
An afternoon thoroughly enjoyed by all present. Let’s hope they can repeat it on a larger stage before too long.
© 2021 text and photographs Mike Raggett WATCH THIS SPACE – SOME VIDEO CLIPS MAYBE ADDED SOON