Review | Miles Davis: The 1950s and Beyond

By Phoebe Blandford

An evening of jazz was a refreshing change of scene from regular student life, swapping the VKs for cocktails and nibbles at the Wales Millennium Centre. The evening was held in their Ffresh café; a small space that is kitted out as a cabaret bar, and perfect for a jazz evening. It was set up like a traditional jazz café with tables for people to sit around, and some enjoyed a full course meal whilst soaking up the music. There is something about jazz music that is infectious; even though the beat is often relatively slow, members of the audience could be seen tapping along and swaying to the rhythms. I love how inclusive jazz music is- it always boasts a relaxed atmosphere, yet exudes sophistication.

This particular evening consisted of a a quartet made up of Gethin Liddington on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ian Poole on drums, Ashley John Long on double bass, and Dave Jones on piano. Liddington is a well known face around South Wales: he has done everything from soloing for The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, to recording with different ensembles. As the front man of the evening, he made an effort with his audience engaging them with jokes and funny stories about the group.

There were a huge range of styles and influences that affected the jazz world in the 1950s and beyond. Taking Miles Davis as an example, one can see the dramatic change in his music from his first album to the music he was later producing at the end of the decade. Davis was paving the way for jazz with his music, firmly rooted in bebop, but also taking on popular songs of the time like ‘My Funny Valentine’. He later played around with modal music which furthered the sound of jazz. All of these changing styles were heard throughout the Liddington/Poole quartet set, and although they weren’t playing the pieces chronologically, the progression of style and sound was evident.

Having studied music at A level, I can appreciate good music, but having mainly a classical background I have little knowledge of the intricacies of jazz music; my enjoyment certainly outweighs my understanding. The performance from the quartet was fantastic, each solo was effortless and entertaining, reflecting by the crowd’s enthusiasm after each solo had taken place. There seemed to be great companionship and communication between the four men, producing a really cohesive and enjoyable set. What was surprising for me was seeing a jazz band without a saxophonist; from my experience of jazz  one has always been an integral part to the band and led like Liddington did on the trumpet. Having said that I did not miss the saxophone, and the quartet was complete without it. Liddington’s trumpet solos were a particular highlight for me; his level of control is astounding as well as the high notes he reaches, I’ve never heard anything like it. Keeping a drum solo interesting is also a hard task, but Poole’s solos were impressive and captivating as he played with the conventions of rhythm and texture.

This quartet are definitely one not to miss next time they’re in Cardiff, a perfect evening out with friends as a change of scene from your student regulars.