The Simon Lasky Quartet are Simon Lasky on piano, Jessica Radcliffe on vocals, Simon Bates on alto saxophone, clarinet and alto flute, and Robert Rickenberg on double bass.
As the musicians came on, the vibe was immediately tangible. Here was a group that was out to enjoy both its own company and that of its audience — natural, easy, relaxed and polished, without a hint of pretension of false bonhomie.
The evening began simply with Harold Arlen’s I’ve Got the World on a String, where the immediate impact was both relaxing and reassuring: the concert space’s acoustic qualities were very pleasing.
Jessica Radcliffe’s open commitment and consistently expressive face and body language was a delight, her voice strong and infinitely varied in nuance and tonal colour. With a real theatrical awareness she radiated sincerity, humour and intelligence through her singing. Rickenberg’s bass came across as strong and earthy, the piano gentle, soprano sax brightly soaring.
Irving Berlin’s How Deep is the Ocean opened with bass rhythms from Rickenberg and finger snaps from Bates, creating a sparse but inviting opening, before some crisply fine scat singing from Radcliffe almost put the music before the lyrics and an alto sax solo drew the first jazz club-style applause of the evening.
Coming Home from Simon Lasky’s new album Story Inside saw declamatory, rich chords from the piano reinforced by bass and alto sax, this time with Bates’s tone reminiscent of Ian Bellamy’s glorious outpourings with the group Quercus in Brecon Cathedral.
Latin rhythms eased their way into the consciousness, with rapid patterns cascading from the saxophone and a high bass line and a semiquaver percussion pattern reminding us that this line-up had that unusual feature: a jazz quartet with no drummer! Again, a hint of the cathedral as the ringing sax voice rang out over Lasky’s arpeggiating piano. This was highly atmospheric music, skilfully presented.
Harry Warren and Al Dublin’s I Only Have Eyes for You was the final witty piece at the end of a great evening’s entertainment — a short but highly accomplished punctuation mark that left the audience happily wanting more, some time in the hopefully not too distant future.
Read the Review in The Henley Standard here :- http://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/music/116828/jazz-quartet-has-the-world-on-a-string.html
Review - The Romantic Cello - 12th March 2016 - Stephen Herman, BBC
There are times, witnessing a piece of music played live, when you feel time pausing, as if to listen. That was the feeling I had whilst listening to Peter Adams and Adrienne Black perform a wide-ranging repertoire for cello and piano, in the latest Concerts in Caversham series at St Andrew’s Church on a cold, clear March evening.
Sitting in a packed church, we watched and listened to works by Schumann, Glazunov, Bruch and Saint Saens, among others, and had that sense which you only get from live performance, that something unrepeatable in its detail and in its combination of circumstances is happening, and that you are part of it, just by being there.
Adrienne Black has been running the chamber music concert series, with oboist husband Timothy Watts, for the past six years. They have consistently attracted other top musical talent to the events. Peter Adams, whose meteoric career has included becoming the youngest ever professor at the Royal Academy of Music, played with a fluent and captivating intensity. Watching his fingers race up and down the neck of the instrument during the fast sections of David Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody op. 68, you almost expected to see smoke rising from them. Ms Black’s performance of the Polonaise in C# minor op 26 no. 1 by Frederic Chopin, a man who, T.S.Eliot once wrote, could transmit the intimacy of his music “through his hair and fingertips”, was accomplished and absorbing.
In a minor innovation to the format, there was no interval, just a series of short pieces, interrupted only by the odd preamble or story from the performers, then wine and snacks in the church hall afterwards. The acoustics of the church itself and its quiet, stone elegance provided a fitting setting for the music.
What, in case you are wondering it is like to hear a programme made up almost entirely of cello music, listen when you can to how expressive the instrument can be, in pieces like Vocalise op 34 no 14 by Sergei Rachmaninov or, more famously, The Swan by Camille Saint-Saens. The evening was not called ‘The Romantic Cello’ for nothing.
Review from Reading Chronicle and Caversham Bridge:
Concerts in Caversham - Midsummer Serenade, 20 June 2015
On 20th June, St Andrew’s Church in Albert Road, Caversham, hosted the Caversham Ensemble Chamber Orchestra for an evening of sublime music, performed with great skill and sensitivity and directed from the violin by Tamas Andras - co-leader of the Royal Philharmonic. The concert started with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, where his four sonnets, written to compliment the work, were read by Lyndsay Sanderson whose strong and descriptive voice told us of Vivaldi’s poetic thinking behind the music. Solo Violinist Tamas Andras’ performance had us spellbound by his energy and masterful interpretation of the music. Throughout the performance, I could see a smile on his face. He was clearly enjoying every minute of it.
After a short interval with Prosecco and strawberries, we were treated to Vaughan Williams’ Concerto in A minor for Oboe and Strings. Again, sublime music in the English tradition, wistful, yet tuneful, reminding me of the countryside, and with, I thought, a nod to the “The Lark Ascending”. Timothy Watts’ playing of the Oboe was the perfect centrepiece of this music, calm, smooth, with a dreamlike quality that you wished would go on and on……
The music from the film “Ladies in Lavender” was our next delight. A luscious, yet emotional piece which brought back memories of the film and its themes. This piece gave the orchestra every chance to show us their romantic side, which of course they did to perfection.
Mozart’s Divertimento in D Major was the last piece of the concert. It had an Italian feel, encompassing grace and charm which the orchestra played perfectly and was a fitting ending to a marvellous concert. Sitting next to me in the audience was a Scottish gentleman. At the end of the concert, he expressed his great surprise that such a high quality musical event could be taking place in our quiet area of Caversham. What I loved about it was that every member of the orchestra put their hearts and soul into giving us a wonderful evening of music. Roll on the next one!
Andrea White (regular concert-goer) - June 2015
How many places the size of Caversham enjoy concerts by top-notch professional musicians who regularly perform with some of the country's leading ensembles? St Andrew's was packed for a programme of piano and wind chamber-music including Poulenc's trio for oboe, bassoon and piano and Mozart's quintet for piano and wind. The musicianship of Tim Watts, Joy Farrall, John Orford, Tim Anderson and Adrienne Black was mellifluously superb.
Elaine Guy - Caversham Bridge October 2012
A beautiful performance of Il Carnevale di Venezia, played by Emer McDonough - principal flute with the RPO. Inspired by hearing James Galway play as a girl, she must have inspired any flautists in the audience. Adrienne Black played both harpsichord and piano with delightful virtuosity - the Harmonious Blacksmith showing the full range of the harpsichord.
Virgina Cullus - Caversham Bridge October 2011
If you haven't already discovered the excellent series of concerts at St Andrew's church, I urge you to come along to the next. The performances were top quality and yet the concert was relaxed. The musicians were happy to engage with the audience taking the trouble to introduce their musical choices.The programme included a great variety. The audience laughed when the irrepressible Jacqueline Pischorn gave hilarious performances of Noel Coward's 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' and 'Mad about the Boy'
Ann Muller - Caversham Bridge June 2011
It was in some ways the height of luxury, and a perfect evening taking a short walk to listen to beautiful, world-class chamber music performed by three talented young musicians - Naomi Watts (cello), Ilya Mochvan (violin) and Chris Guild (piano). The programme played in such an intimate setting held everyone's attention and short anecdotes about the music were enjoyed by the audience.
Stephen Herrmann - Caversham Bridge March 2011