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The Mike Hext Sextet.

The Mike Hext Sextet – Mike Hext (trombone), Pete Beament (drums), Rob Leake (tenor sax), Paul Kimber (double bass), Lynda Murray (alto sax) and Mike Horler (piano).

Memorable jazz night in Robertsbridge

Saxophonist Lynda Murray is a regular participant in jazz concerts around Hastings. Here she reports on the Mike Hext Sextet’s recent gig in Robertsbridge, featuring special guest John Horler on piano and, during the second set, herself on alto.

Robertsbridge Jazz Club’s special guest for May was John Horler, an established jazz pianist who is well-known for playing with the late Johnny Dankworth, Cleo Lane, Ronnie Ross, Pete King and Jimmy Hastings (who coincidently I had some soprano sax lessons with in the early 80s). The hall is full because many of the villagers come and support their monthly jazz event.

The second number of the night was I’ll Remember April (Raye-DePaul), which has a first section played with a Latin feel and the second with a swing feel. During the first section John managed to take us to Cuba playing complex montunas – a repeated pattern that works across the rhythm but with the harmony of the other rhythm section players – then segued over to a West Coast swing style for the second section.

He alternated between these genres during his solo, lifting the music into a very special place. We are no longer in a village hall but a London jazz club.

Also playing that night were Mike Hext (trombone), Rob Leake (tenor sax), Paul Kimber (double bass), Pete Beament (drums) and an extra guest for the second set, yours truly Lynda Murray on alto sax.

From classical to jazz

What makes Mike Hext and Paul Kimber extraordinary is that they are top orchestral musicians, both playing for the Royal Opera House Orchestra besides other performing and composing activities. Mike was also the first ever BBC Young Musician of the Year winner, in 1978. I suspect they play jazz because it touches parts of the creative soul that classical music does not – the genre that they are highly trained to play does not allow for this type of expression and creativity.

A fantastic stand-out moment in the first set was when Mike played the valve trombone – this is smaller than a regular trombone and plays in the same register, but reminds me of the sound of the flugelhorn, mellow, mellifluous and magical. Mike plays the valve trombone extremely well and gave a beautiful rendition of the ballad Never Let Me Go (Jay Livingston), capturing a moment of love and longing.

The illustrious Paul Kimber (principal double bass with the Royal Opera House) is also a great jazz bassist. He accompanies and solos with a total command of the language and has a beautiful light touch on his instrument. He can make the bass sing and his solos were well received. He even played a solo using the bow – very difficult and hardly ever done in a jazz context.

Strict drum style

Rob Leake (tenor sax) gave a good rendition of Recorda-Me (Jo Henderson) and played a lively solo. Pete Beament, now in his seventies and a retired classical percussionist, kept everyone together with his strict drum style and his light touch on the cymbals.

Now I can’t review myself but I can tell you a little about my experience of playing with the great John Horler. I opened with Stolen Moments (Oliver Nelson) and completely unplanned we played the head as a duet, then on Stella by Starlight (Victor Young), speaking the same language, we had a lovely conversation during my solo.The audience showed their appreciation by cheering – fantastic!

The rest of the second set was a lot of fun and flew by, it was great to play with these guys. I went home with John Horler’s words echoing in my head: “I enjoyed playing with you, Lynda, and I would like to play with you again.”

Posted 15:21 Wednesday, Jun 14, 2017 In: Music & Sound

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