Given the current Brexit debacle, it is timely that Frenchman and Scottish resident Jean-Baptiste Richon has set up Small Stage Productions, with the express intention of bringing European mainland jazz to Scotland. This jazzer for one says bravo! And what a band he has for South-East Scotland: the Filip Verneert & Eo Simon Quartet (VSQ). With two gigs in Edinburgh and the same number in Fife in the space of just three days, this band were kept muy ocupado.
However, first on for the evening was the tasty hors d’oeuvre of Richon’s eponymous quartet. Playing a stream of reassuring standards, these were presented beautifully not least thanks to Richon’s delicate pianism and Gary Laidlaw’s energetic guitar. Hopefully this is a band that will more frequently grace the jazz venues hereabouts, as their lyrical sounds seemed to engender that rare thing, a sense of ease.
The headliners likewise clearly enjoyed une bonne melodie, though in their case these were self-penned. Since a serendipitous jam session back in 2015 when highly accomplished musicians, Belgian guitarist Filip Verneert and Spanish pianist Enrique Simon’s paths first crossed, they have toured and recorded first as a duo, than as a quartet. A year ago, the four played in Edinburgh so it was a compliment that they have chosen to cross the channel again, with Frenchman Gil Lachenal doing the honours on bass and Pedro Vazquez Martinez on drums.
Indeed, the band’s wide experience of multiple musical genres, between them bringing expertise in Western classical, Spanish folk, Big band jazz, and Musical theatre, together with their past work in multiple countries (various European countries, Argentina, USA) were in most part discernible in tonight’s satisfyingly rich gig.
Inclusive of an encore VSQ delivered eight tunes, throughout demonstrating an easy prowess. With little by way of dissonance and judicious use of modal playing, this felt like a flood of European warmth and geniality. Prominent melody and mutual generosity characterised the gig, the audience’ enjoyment enhanced when explanations were given of tunes’ origins.
Whilst the entirety was a delight, two highlights for this listener were Simon’s ‘Lucentum’, named after his home town, Alicante, and the smokin’ ‘Hundred Miles’ with its interesting guitar figures.