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  • Miles Hedley


South-east London is blessed with a seemingly endless supply of talented young jazz musicians. One of the main reasons is the presence of Trinity Laban’s acclaimed jazz faculty and another is Oliver’s bar, where so many rising stars have cut their performance teeth.

Both were on display when Oliver’s played host to a phenomenal gig by Simon Purcell, once Trinity’s jazz guru and now a full-time jobbing pianist, who brought together his old tenor sax pal Mark Lockheart and three of the very best of his ex-students, bassist Conor Chaplin, drummer Corrie Dick and trumpeter Laura Jurd, to create a night of musical magic in Greenwich.

The latter three play together in the Mercury-nominated band Dinosaur and it showed – they had an almost telepathic understanding as Purcell led this quintet in a series of freewheeling, stunning improvisations based on works by such legendary figures as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Bronislaw Kaper and Rich Perry.

It’s tough to pick out highlights when every tune they played was a joy.

There was a fantastic percussion and bass duet by Messrs Dick and Chaplin on Perry’s amazing composition Squishy.

But at a pinch I’d opt for the whole ensemble’s virtuoso extemporisations on Rollins’ I’m An Old Cowhand, which filled most of the second half of their set.

It not only showed off the extraordinary talents of each member of the band but also underscored the widely-held view among experts that Jurd is a world-class trumpeter.

In fact the whole gig was world-class and was, as Purcell himself said at the end, a demonstration of why live improvised music is just about as good as it gets.

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