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The Benn Clatworthy Quartet at the FILO

The Benn Clatworthy Quartet at the FILO.

Not about jazz

Sean O’Shea and friends describe a performance by the Benn Clatworthy Quartet, one of last year’s musical highlights at the FILO – First In Last Out – pub in the Old Town.

It was a cold and miserable Sunday evening and I had intended to remain indoors when the phone rang. It was a friend of mine and occasional HOT contributor Angie Phillip. She invited me to a gig at the FILO to listen to a group I’d never heard of called the Benn Clatworthy quartet. I’m not a jazz aficionado – more out of ignorance than discernment – so I hesitated. Angie persisted assuring me that it would be a very special evening and I reluctantly agreed to go.

The company included Angie’s husband Paul Way-Rider (HOT editorial group) and her friend John Horrigan – a man who knows and appreciates his jazz. I asked them if they would be willing to contribute some informed comment for this review and they gladly agreed.

Benn was a tall slim man with cropped hair and wore a brown check jacket, dark shirt and tie. His shoes gleamed as if he had just come off a military parade ground. When not playing he held his head back, his mouth open, eyes closed and occasionally rocked from side to side as if he was on another plane. I was transfixed and couldn’t keep my eyes off him. I wondered for a moment if he was on stimulants of some sort. He was – but it was the music, not any illicit substance, which was enthusing him.

I found the performance mesmerising and Benn’s version of Danny Boy was my favourite of the evening. It started off with the familiar melody and then he developed this in sometimes playful and sometimes haunting directions. It demonstrated to me that a tune has inexhaustible possibilities of interpretation, and in the hands of a talented musician can seem ever fresh to the ear.

During the break I went up and asked if he had any CDs and confided that I didn’t know much about jazz but really enjoyed listening to him. He said ‘It’s not about jazz. I don’t have time for different genres. It’s just a language and I communicate.’ Then he finished his glass of wine, politely excused himself and headed back for part two of this truly remarkable performance.

I left the FILO that night feeling grateful to Angie for remembering me and determined to listen to more jazz in 2015.

Benn Clatworthy 'in the zone'

Benn Clatworthy 'in the zone'.

John Horrigan

Hastings is known for being one of the most musical towns around and this particular evening confirmed that reputation.  Benn and the quartet really lifted the roof, and I have never seen so many people at the FILO. So much so that Mike the Landlord had to use his own style of firm but well mannered crowd control.

Given that this was a Sunday evening in mid-November, it was the sort of pre-Christmas boost that sets you up for the seasonal period. Benn has played with some of the American giants of jazz including Horace Silver, Jimmy Cleveland, Cedar Walton, Billy Higgins, Cab Calloway and many more. So maybe it’s not altogether surprising that people came to support him.  I particularly liked the quartets’ version of Here There and Everywhere (Lennon/McCartney), also the really steamy version of Danny Boy, and towards the end their rendering of Limehouse Blues.

The line up was John Donaldson on piano who lives in Hastings but plays alongside some of Britain’s greatest musicians all over the country.  On bass was Simon Thorpe – what can you say about one of the most popular bass players on the London circuit and elsewhere? Milo Fell played drums: this was my first time seeing this excellent drummer, who also teaches. All in all, this was an exceptional gig, even by Hastings’ high standards.

Simon Thorpe (bass) and Milo Fell (drums)

Simon Thorpe (bass) and Milo Fell (drums).

Paul Way-Rider

I think Benn’s reputation had preceded him. Amongst the respected local and international musicians in attendance at the FILO were ; bassist Roger Carey, drummer, Russell Field, keyboardist, Jo Brooks from Hastings Horns, saxophonist Lynda Murray, and trombone player Marcus Weeks. I was also pretty sure that the silver haired guy sitting near the front was a well known jazz rock guitarist I recognised from having seen him play in Oxford.

Benn and the band were certainly worthy of such an illustrious audience. I had to keep reminding myself that I was sitting in a pub in Hastings on a dank Sunday evening in November because I was listening to a band playing such amazing music that I’d have expected to have to travel to London at least to hear them. The saxophone was mellow, the band was superb – world class, Hastings.

John Donaldson - keyboards

John Donaldson - keyboards.

Angie Phillip

Benn Clatworthy, originally from London but lately from LA, got held up on the A21 and arrived a little late. We all know the A21 so we sympathised. I was tired that night and hadn’t intended staying very long, but as soon as Benn started playing, I was hooked. We all were. This guy and his quartet had definitely been worth waiting for.

The first piece was good and we settled in to listen. Crisp packets quietened, chattering stopped. For two or three hours we were transported.

The best one for me was Here, There and Everywhere. Benn Clatworthy wrapped us up in that tune and took us on the journey with him. I know John Horrigan mentioned this in his comments above, but still I have to say that in many years of listening, I’ve never heard it played like that – so smooth, with an occasional bit of rough, just the odd little growl. Just remembering it gives me a thrill. What an experience.  Thank you, FILO. Thank you, Hastings. Thank you, Benn Clatworthy.

  • All photos  by Paul Way-Rider, Hot Editorial Group
  • For more information about the FILO and upcoming gigs

SOS – January 2015

Posted 19:05 Friday, Jan 9, 2015 In: SOS

Also in: SOS

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