Perfect end to 2017 concert series

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Review of St George’s URC Lunchtime Concert Series, December concert.

The fourth and final concert of the 2017 autumn series at St George’s URC featured the jazz guitar duo of James Birkett and Bradley Johnston.

They have been regular visitors to the lunchtime concerts over the years and are very popular, judging from the large audience in attendance.

Both are well established in the North East jazz scene and make many appearances up and down the country.

They often have the role of feature soloist but for several years have performed at a jazz duo with remarkable success.

Their programme plotted a musical journey of music by some of the most influential players and composers of the last one hundred years – through early jazz and blues swing and bebop to cool and contemporary jazz.

They opened with Black Orpheus by Brazilian composer Luiz Bonfa.

This was a composition with a distinct Latin flavour, which moved along nicely with lovely chords.

The music gradually accelerated to a breathtaking finale before fading away to a gentle conclusion.

Eddie Lane’s perfect gave Bradley the opportunity to illustrate his talent as a soloist in a piece in which the composer promotes the jazz guitar as a solo instrument.

Bradley gave a brilliant performance as befitting the title of the composition.

The pair continued with Farmer’s Trust by Pat Metheny. A lovely lyrical piece which moved in a gentle, liquid manner and is very easy on the ear.

There followed Doxy by Sonny Rollins, which gradually livened up after a gentle opening providing and interesting and complex chord structure on both guitars.

A beautiful arrangement of Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are included a number of interesting variations gave an outstanding performance.

Bradley Johnston illustrates his prowess as a composer in James’ Waltz, a tribute to his teacher, this was a simple study but very effective with gentle movement and a lovely melody.

Their penultimate composition by Ray Noble moves alone at a frantic pace after a measured introduction.

The distinct and clear notation was an outstanding feature.

The concert ended with the Last Movement of James Birkett’s suite for two guitars, which was specially commissioned in 2000.

This was a thrilling work, which moved along at a frantic pace and provided a fitting finale to a superb concert.

Overall it was obvious that James and Bradley constantly perform together such was the timing and clear understanding between them.

This was jazz performance at the highest level and the audience responded in a most enthusiastic way with long and sustained applause.

The opening concert of the new 2018 winter/spring series takes place on January 10 and will be performed by a folk fiddlers combination – the Bottle Band Band.

BCP