The award-winning octet began their show at Bedlam & Squalor on April 2nd with their signature piece, The Gathering: a piece laden with symbolism in both name and sonic mood. The title track from their 2020 album, it is a transcendental piece that invites the listener to follow them through the wardrobe to worlds beyond.

So it was quite the catchy (22) when they segued into Major Major Major, a number that doesn’t wait for the audience to follow. Instead, it grabs you by the ears and flings you headlong into a twisting mix of sounds, eight individual streams winding around you, leaving you helpless to resist.

Every piece of music these accomplished musicians played that night at the Bedlam was an original composition. The arrangement of the pieces so well orchestrated that the effect was of a magic carpet ride to exotic places near and far:

Epoc III – Demise finds the listener in Paris on the set of a movie about parted lovers. Black and white, of course. Then off to New York City with honking traffic and pounding hearts in The Heist, before The Tui effortlessly surrounds the listener with a lush, enchanted forest and the magical sounds of unseen birds.

Nick Tipping and Shaun Anderson provide the rumbling base of bass and drums, respectively, playing with such synchronization that you might think them a single being with four hands.

Rising from this foundation, Callum Allardice on guitar builds a pedestal to which the soloists ascend in turn to sound their horns: Chris Buckland on saxophone, Ben Hunt on trumpet, and Matthew Allison on trombone.

If the audience is the cobra, The Jac is the snake charmer. Enraptured, we were.

Daniel Millward, The Jac’s usual pianist, could not make it that friendly evening, so Daniel Hayles stood in for him. Must be a Daniel thing, as Hayles fit in like a precision-made part. His playing worked as a catalyst, bringing forth the full spirit of the evening, and this despite a poorly tuned piano.

It is this author’s firm belief that every jazz bar must provide a well-tuned grand piano! Shall we take up a collection to that end?

The band wrapped up with Thieves in the Night, and what a brilliant solo it was. Jake Baxendale’s meaty sound and articulate chops stole the hearts of the audience in one fell swoop. The audience was so blown away that when the last note sounded, they sat frozen in silent awe, forgetting momentarily to applaud.

Jake stepped to the mic. “It is a treat to play music to humans. I love it. And I love you.” And with that, The Jac vanished until thick air, to return some enchanted evening to a jazz bar near you.

We love you, too, Jake. See you on the rebound.

by Charlie Queen