Vince Jones and friends
Vince Jones wears his heart on his sleeve, and on Thursday night, May 14, at the opening concert of Stonnington Jazz for 2009, his heart was at bursting point. Every song demonstrated his love of the music and gratitude for the myriad musicians with whom he had performed over the years. Before the encore — and no doubt he needed a Little Glass of Wine — Vince said he had been a nervous wreck all day, but it had been “a great evening”. It had.
Festival artistic director Adrian Jackson introduced the concert to “celebrate the contribution Vince Jones has made over the past 30 years” before handing the night over to Jones, his voice and occasional horn, and 15 musicians from his past in a series of revolving line-ups. The first of those had Matt McMahon on piano, Ben Waples on bass, Simon Barker on drums, Tim Rollinson on guitar and Dale Barlow on tenor sax.
They began with Waltz for Debbie, with Vince (Jones sounds too formal) noting that Bill Evans’s jazz waltz called to mind thoughts of a father watching as his daughter grew from “an interest in teddy bears to Teddy Boys”. Barlow and McMahon were featured. The ballad Tenderly included a flute solo by Barlow and Vince summed it up: “Beautiful song, beautiful playing.”
The standard Let’s Get Lost moved Vince to recall the day in New York when, suffering flu and after drinking too much, he was urged by Art Blakey of the Jazz Messengers to, “Man, make a record.” And that’s how his album One Day Spent came about, featuring, among others, Dale Barlow.
Barlow left the stage, leaving the quartet remaining to perform one of the night’s most moving numbers, We Let Them Do It, written by McMahon and Jones and inspired by peace activists around the world. Vince mentioned a few names, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, John Lennon and Nelson Mandela — “so many, yet so few”. Referring to the money spent on war rather than on education, hospitals … and jazz, Vince said the song title was accurate a lot of the time: “In the end that’s pretty much what happens.” The quartet was very strong and so were the vocals. Vince was warming to his task.
The next set of Vince’s comrades to join him on stage were Jex Saarelaht on piano, Doug De Vries on guitar, Allan Browne on drums, Wilbur Wilde on tenor sax and Steve Hadley on double bass. This group — some from Vince’s Tankerville Arms days, I believe — really heated things up, working together tightly on Stop This World (And Let Me Off), Can’t Afford to Live, Can’t Afford to Die (with a great Saarelaht solo) and Send Us Down More Love, on which De Vries treated us to some great playing. Wilde was restrained and not at all wild.
After the break, the line-up returned Barlow on sax and had Paul Grabowsky on piano, with Tony Floyd on drums. Again the change of personnel brought a new sound and vibe. They played The Rainbow Cake, written by Grabowsky with Jones, Don’t Jettison Everything (inspired, said Vince, by captain of the world Rupert Murdoch), with a Grabowsky solo and Floyd making his presence felt, and Let Me Please Come In, which Vince explained was a ballad about a woman who had an affair, but was trying to get back with her fellow. As Grabowsky left the stage he did not need to make up with Vince — they embraced.
Vince ran his swine flu gag past us (I rang the hot line and all I got was crackling) while Sam Keevers came to the piano, Simon Barker to the drum kit and Ben Waples to the bass. They played Doug De Vries’s moving The Nature of Power, with Vince memorably singing “it’s the power of nature, not the nature of power”. De Vries, who had been a joy to hear, left before the ensemble played Love, Love, Love, featuring Keevers, then the standard Secret Love, before which Vince confessed to having been infatuated with Doris Day’s red lips and black hair after seeing her on the screen. He was about eight. Keevers did some strumming of the piano strings before the tempo quickened, the piano teamed with drums and bass to bring rhythm to the fore and Barker entertained with a solo. Keevers departed as Wilde and Rollinson returned and Vince waxed lyrical about “wonderful creators of music”. He was right.
It was almost over, but we had a chance to sing along on What The World Needs Now, with Vince characteristically working up to the song, reminding us love was “the most important thing on this planet” and that “we’re all the result of making love”. The Malvern Town Hall was packed, but we did not sound like Welsh coal miners, as Vince promised. It was fitting to finish with Little Glass of Wine.
A toast to Vince Jones, to his assorted and many musicians, and to Stonnington Jazz.
(Pictures of the performance to follow soon)