Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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John Etheridge: Crazy Coqs London 28/1/23

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It’s good to see Crazy Coqs expand on its programming as it is generally known as a top-class cabaret venue. They are branching out by booking such acts as The Sooth Sayers, The Banger Factory and The Coalminers and this can only widen their appeal. Tonight, was a special event as well. Jazz fusion giant John Etheridge was in solo flight performance mode and raring to go.

I didn’t know what to expect as I had only heard him playing on records with Soft Machine (1975 - 1978 period) so I was intrigued as to how Etheridge was going to play this.

Early proceedings included "Doxy" and "Georgia On My Mind". These evergreen jazz standards were wonderfully executed. Etheridge really branched out as he accompanied himself by playing melodies based around the chords, whilst simultaneously producing stunning sonic results.

The clever thing is, that he is easily able to maintain melodic lines with these standards while adding stretched-out, extrapolated ideas on the top and bottom of the melodies. Etheridge’s broad smile and sharp humour are also very much another string to his bow.

So having acquitted himself admirably by playing solo guitar, it was time to start using pedals and a looper. It was fun to watch him change moods on the fly. He’d only loop certain sections so that he could blow over them. His improv was measured and musical, whilst still maintaining a high-octane performance, combined with subtle authority and maturity.

The artist's homage to Jeff Beck was in the guise of Charlie Mingus’s "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", which was slightly marred by his newly fixed fender amp playing up (Beck would have found that very amusing and I can imagine the schoolboy giggle he was known for, coming out!)

Sanity restored, by way of a backup amp, kept things on course. His pleasing demeanour was unaffected and the audience found it amusing. A touch of stand-up comedy is definitely in this guy’s veins.

Hendrix, of course, got a nod with a spectacular version of "Little Wing" with a mood not dissimilar to Pink Floyd’s "Dark Side Of The Moon. His ability and agility to engage in furious fret-board runs were spotlighted on his wonderful eulogy to a guy he once opened up for in 1966.

Other highlights were two pieces from Cameroon. The first had that open major chord expansiveness that perhaps only the key of E magically has. Here his playing and approach reminded me of Pat Metheny on a track, “Phase Dance”.

There was a good South African tune also where he mimicked a steel pan. Listening to it was like peeking at an artist’s most intimate creative moments. This is just as well because Crazy Coqs is an intimate circular space, beautifully designed with a top-class sound, which added up to a truly forthright and enjoyable evening.
Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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