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

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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