Review: Head2Head, The Jazz Bar (Venue 57)

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It isn’t every night you hear extracts from opera or ballet resounding from the crammed stage of the Jazz Bar.

Star rating: * * * *

Mind you, high-trilling divas or expiring swans were notable by their absence; instead the music was delivered by a punchy brass’n’reed front line, driven by drums, guitar and the electric bass guitar of the music’s composer, Graham Robb, revelling in the latest periodic incarnation of his powerful jazz-rock ensemble, Head2Head.

This latest manifestation of an outfit that began back in the 1970s with the pioneering Scottish jazz-rockers Head, of which Robb and this evening’s drummer (and Jazz bar proprietor) Bill Kyle, were core members, was anything but a creaky nostalgia trip, featuring as it did a muscular triple-horn front row of trumpeter Cameron Jay, Stuart Forbes on tenor sax and Sam Coombes on alto, plus American guitarist Tom Davis.

They combined tight, beefy brass riffing with some fine solo work, that ballet extract, Life Cycle 3, more stomp than arabesque, Robb’s bass strutting solidly behind David’s echoing guitar. Not An Opera – an ironically titled sequence from a short opera due to be premiered later this year in New York’s Carnegie Hall – turned out to be a full-toned, stately business opened by the eloquent belling of Jay’s trumpet.

No Relation did indeed look back, its 1970s funk feel complete with wah-wah guitar stuttering through the riff and Coombes’s alto sax piping shrilly, while powerful statements from Forbes and Jay emerged during Robb’s rumbustious commentary on Italian politics, Bunga Bunga! (Berlusconi wouldn’t have sung along to that one). Another relic from the Head days, I Met a Man, was vigorously re-animated, with Coombes’s alto simmering reedily, while Putting It Together, actually the title of one of Robb’s jazz text books, did indeed assemble itself – as did this band – with impressive efficiency.

Until 17 August. Today 10pm.