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Review: Phil Robson-Jed Levy Quartet, Cathedral Hotel, Lichfield

Jazz guitarist Phil Robson has long been one of the most compelling players on his instrument, with a fluid, expressive style that’s always a joy to hear.

Phil Robson in action at the Cathedral Hotel. Photo: John Watson.
Phil Robson in action at the Cathedral Hotel. Photo: John Watson.

Derby-born Phil, who was based in the USA for many years and now lives in Ireland, formed a quartet in New York with the excellent American tenor saxophonist Jed Levy, and the group is completed by two superb players; UK bassist Dave Whitford and Italian drummer Roberto Gatto.

They are on an extensive tour including dates in Germany and Ireland as well as the UK, and on Wednesday delighted the packed audience at the Cathedral Hotel in Lichfield, in a joint presentation by the organisations Lichfield Jazz and Birmingham Jazz.

New York saxophonist Jed Levy in Lichfield. Photo: John Watson.

Each musician has worked with many of the giants of jazz, and their strong individual styles blend brilliantly to create music that is both polished and unfailingly dynamic.

The group plays original compositions, the writing equally divided between Robson and Levy; pieces packed with brilliant rhythmic twists and harmonic surprises.

Highlights included Levy’s amusingly titled Twiddle Twaddle (an expression used by one of his Italian friends who signs off text message exchanges with 'Nice to Twiddle Twaddle with you.'), and an engaging piece simply called Irony, as the saxophonist’s small daughter described it as sounding “kind of ironic”.

Robson’s own fine compositions include Canute (a tribute to the king he rightly described as 'much misunderstood'), and Three Chord Trick, named after the very basic chord changes often used by pop musicians, but actually including rather more sophisticated harmonies.

After such original music, the encore came as a surprise - a lovely version of the ballad Body And Soul, with Levy’s rich-toned tenor at its most expressive.

Review and photos by John Watson

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