Review: Peterborough Jazz Club - Moore to this than meets the eye

Chris Ingham Quartet
Chris Ingham Quartet

There were many facets to this gig (Chris Ingham Quartet, February 11), and many reasons why it’s likely to remain in the memory of the large number of people who were present.

In the themed programme there was reminiscence about the life and times of Dudley Moore. Plus plenty of punchy modern jazz numbers written by this iconic hero of the sixties and seventies. There was nostalgia for those heady days.

There was even a bit of musicology as Chris Ingham analysed the elements that contributed to Dudley Moore’s jazz style.

But I think the first thing to mention is the venue. After many years at the Great Northern Hotel, the Peterborough Jazz Club has found a new home in the upstairs bar of The Broadway theatre. Even on a bitterly cold winter’s evening the large space was warm and welcoming, with cafe-style tables, comfortable chairs, a well-stocked bar, and atmospheric lighting. Most important of all, the acoustics turned out to be ideal for the line-up of trumpet, keyboard, string bass, and drums.

If Chris Ingham’s aim was to convince us that Dudley Moore remains hugely under-rated as a jazz composer and performer then I think he succeeded in the end. Yet, I have to admit that while listening to early numbers like Dudley Dell and Thirty is a Dangerous Age I remained a bit sceptical. Despite the tight playing and the commitment of the quartet, what I was hearing didn’t sound all that different to the modern jazz piano sound of Oscar Peterson or Erroll Garner.

However, as the gig continued the music became more distinctive and Dudley’s individuality began to show through. The slowly descending chromaticism in songs like Poova Nova, Millionaire, and the poignant Waltz for Suzy emerged as one of the leading characteristics of his style. As did the downward stepping harmonies. Both serving to convey the melancholy which was undoubtedly part of both Dudley Moore’s music and his ultimately tragic, fairytale life.

Did other people in the audience wonder, as I did, what proportion of the music we heard was pure Dudley Moore, and what proportion was improvisation?

Chris Ingham told me afterwards that despite their love of Dudley’s work the musicians were in no sense a tribute band. So that what we heard was spontaneous invention in the time-honoured jazz tradition.

Chris himself achieving marvels of dexterity on a Yamaha electric piano while Paul Higgs on trumpet and flugel added all sorts of imaginative colouring.

Not to mention some raunchy bass solos by Geoff Gascoyne and the gutsy drumming of George Double.