Rocking the Barge…. Gently

Eric Gilchrist plays Thurday night jazz at riverside pub

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On the 29th July, the day that TV’s Newsroom Southeast chose to bemoan the steady closure of jazz venues in London, local reedman Eric Gilchrist was busy proving that the Chiswick scene remains vibrant even when pitted against the prestigious Ealing Jazz Festival.

For the past three years Gilchrist’s Thursday evening sessions at the City Barge Strand on the Green have been attracting regular, discerning and quietly appreciative audiences, the majority dining tastefully, but a good sprinkling quaffing contentedly at the bar.

Geared to the salon-like intimacy of the upper bar, Gilchrist’s format consistsof a first set aptly titled ‘Ballads and Bossa’ featuring a special guest backing his alto sax, on piano or guitar. His quietly insistent singing enhances the proceedings but just in case this calls to mind the faintly praising and, hence, slightly damning phrase ‘Dinner Jazz’, his alto occasionally bares its teeth to bring one nearer the edge of the bar-stool or stop cutlery in mid flight.

Special guest this particular evening, pianist Jack Honeyborne, cut his teeth in the ranks of the big bands of Ken Mackintosh, Joe Loss and Ronnie Aldridge’s Squadronaires. However he is above all a listener as befits someone who has accompanied world renowned singers Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr and Dick Haymes on tour. He was the perfect foil to Gilchrist’s ‘softly swooping sax’, his carefully crafted solo in a fine “My heart stood still” producing an answering swell of applause.

The second set opened with the resident duo flexing their muscles with a request for “I cover the waterfront” which was much appreciated at the bar and then we began to reap a bonus from the Ealing Festival as Eric Gilchrist’s surprise guests, as he likes to call them, sailed in from theNorth Circular.

Trumpeter Chris Hodgkin gave us an electrifying “Cute” followed during a lively session by Adrian Yorath on bass guitar and Lyn Edwards on bongos. Finally things came to a rousing finale as Gilchrist’s fellow Grove Parkite, Tim Wacher, his gruff trombone suitably muted, tore up Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” with a vocal reminiscent of Jerry Colonna to end a thoroughly satisfying evening’s entertainment.

Eric Gilchrist’s special guests for August will be pianists Nigel Fox on the 5th, Martin Blackwell, the 12th, Jack Honeyborne, the 19th and Martin Blackwell again on the 26th.

August 5, 2004