Gypsy Jazz Welcomed By Shrewsbury Crowd.

The Robin Nolan Trio

Walker Theatre

Friday October 12th

Living proof that you can improve on perfection; After a perfect start this Gypsy Jazz trio just got better and better.

Initially here’s a quick glance of the genre. Gypsy Jazz is a unique sound fusing Jazz Music with Blues with folk with pop. Played on guitars and maybe violin and trumpet, it is a fast, pacey and exciting sound. Like all jazz Robin’s music is layered, starting with the main theme there is then room to play with the theme take it off piste and bring it all back for inspection at the end. It is possibly the most free(ish) of styles. This in return engenders a beautiful assault on your senses. Audibly of course utterly beautiful but with eyes closed it conjures up festivals, colours and fun, people, laughter, dancing and joy.  To listen to the guitars working in syncopation with the bass or the two guitars squeezing every possible note out of a phrase is amazing. In other words Gypsy Jazz is a happy and utterly satisfying sound.

So who brought this amazing music to Walker theatre you may ask? Let me tell you that since Django Reinhardt, the Robin Nolan Trio is classed as the greatest exponent of Gypsy Jazz today.

Although English to a Liverpudlian father, Robin has made Amsterdam his home where there is a great tradition of this genre and style. However one learns although Robin might be English his story places him all over the world in the company of some truly amazing people, including George Harrison and Ravi Shankar.  He told his stories very humbly as he stood flanked by Shrewsbury’s greatest Gypsy Jazz guitarist, Chris Quinn, and the incredibly dextrous double bass of Dutch man, Arnoud Van Den Berg.

This act is lively, hopelessly infectious and just so joyous. To hear individual notes so wonderfully presented is like seeing bees leaving the hive, they may be back they may not but whilst they are on the air they doing the most remarkable dance with all the other notes that Chris and Arnoud were producing. One could experience this wonderful coming together of sounds and harmonics.

Although Chris provided the solid rhythm like an engine to the whole thing, he too would be throwing in harmonics and little riffs that coupled with Robin’s beautifully selected notes and Arnoud’s totally faultless bass playing. What it created was  a spectacular sundae of delight.

However, just when one suspected it couldn’t get any better, it did. Quick change of gear enter Antony Stevens, normally the music teacher at Concord College; when the trio were playing at Concord they kind of found him and more so his golden trumpet. Unrehearsed, they asked would he jam in on their gig at Walker Theatre and he consented.

So call it serendipitous there was a meet that was just so supposed to happen. Antony's trumpet was just perfect. Offering the velvet guise of respectfulness, a break from the decadence the speakeasy feel jazz can create perhaps, but this man was born to play Gypsy Jazz on his trumpet and play he did. With notes from the top of his head and the heels of his boots,  Antony ran along the musical bed so beautifully. He earned his mid-tune applause for sure.

I do believe Shrewsbury can be proud of Chris Quinn, he has toured Europe and The States and achieved a name for himself, he is bringing top musicians into the town and he deserves every drop of fame that comes his way as do the other two. I would say the other three but Mr. Stevens didn’t mention his dream of quitting teaching for ever and running away with the Gypsy Musicians. But if he did, he would belong to this generous genre as much as it belongs to him!

This show is simple in production simple to set up, one would imagine three chairs in a large space might look slightly insignificant. Not a bit of it these boys filled that stage with sound and happiness. Robin’s fingers worked like spider-lings, just so fast and everywhere. There wasn’t a place on the fret board he didn’t know and he can magically find the notes, gift wrap them and deliver them to a very grateful crowd, who at the end, every man jack of them were on their feet calling for more.

This is a pocket sized show of power. When one gets to watch the best exponents of something more than a performance occurs. It’s a blur, one can’t see where man ends and guitar starts such is the skill of this little but powerfully built combi. If you ever get chance to see them I strongly suggest you should. This is a genre so joyous and such fun. Life was tough for the Gypsies but my how they knew how to play!

This is a Five Star Review

Owen J Lewis


Sofia Lewis Sofia Lewis
For many years Sofia wrote here under her male name Owen J. Lewis. She is now mostly writing under her own name of Sofia Lewis. Sofia, who worked on independent radio for over ten years, lives in Shrewsbury and writes plays. She has over 15 titles published and her plays are performed all over the world. She is especially popular in America. Her poetry is also often noted and she writes reams of it most weeks. Since graduating in theatre in 1997 Sofia has been an Actor, Filmmaker, and a Secondary School Teacher. Reviewing theatre is something she thoroughly enjoys and she loves to see great theatre. As a musician Sofia is known throughout the UK she is a folk singer, and is often seen or heard around her native county singing and having fun. Sofia has contributed to for over a decade and enjoys sharing her views on theatre. Sofia has one daughter and grew up in Church Stretton.

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