Clare Cellars 31st January 2010
I am ashamed to say that before Sunday I had never before been to Clare Cellars, let alone Clare Jazz. My introduction to the venue and the series saw Selwyn Jazz and Fitz Swing, Cambridge’s jazz giants; take each other on in a 2 1/2 hour long ‘jazz-off’.
Selwyn began their hour-long set and got the crowd going nicely with a tight rendition of the Sesame Street theme and things just kept getting better! The choice of repertoire was varied and challenging and played to the strengths of the group, showing off their extremely talented soloists. Abtin Sadeghi shone as Cambridge’s answer to Michael Buble with smooth renditions of old classics, while Alastair Penman on sax stole the show in his usual style with unbelievably relentless solos throughout.
Fitz opened their counter-attack with old standard ‘The Chicken’, and while they weren’t as secure as Selwyn, they had a crowd-pleasing selection of tunes. Gwilym Bowen wowed the audience with his display of skill on keys and Alex Russell was a delight to listen to on vocals. Fitz played to a great standard but did lack the connection with the audience that Selwyn created.
The show was rounded off with the two bands joining forces for an epic rendition of ‘A Few Good Men’. A highlight of this was a more personal ‘piano battle’ between Selwyn’s Freddie Brown and Gwilym Bowen between whom it would be impossible to choose. The groups had great rapport and while Fitz were ‘King of the Swingers’, Selwyn undoubtedly won over the crowd. The real champion on Sunday night, however, was Clare Jazz and Cambridge’s jazz scene in general. If you haven’t yet made it to jazz at Clare Cellars, then I recommend that you get there ASAP for what is guaranteed to be a brilliant night of quality music in a relaxed and quirky surrounding.