Stan Tracey Quartet, Philip Madoc

DAVID WAKEFIELD Norfolk and Norwich Festival event at Norwich Playhouse


Stan Tracey's suite, Under Milk Wood, inspired by Dylan Thomas's wonderful “Play With Voices” – his observations on Welsh life of the period – has become a definitive British jazz work, first conceived and recorded back in 1965. Since then it was been re-recorded, the most recent being with Welsh actor Philip Madoc as narrator, as he was last night.

The suite follows a definite pattern of a period of narration followed by a musical illustration, introducing Thomas's wonderful characters – Captain Cat, Mrs Ogmore Pritchard, Gossamer Beynon, Polly Garter and her long lost love Little Willy Wee – plus some flowing poetic passages, accompanied by solo piano.

Madoc's wonderful, mellifluous tones, and the ability to leap in and out of character, brought the best out of Thomas's words; and Tracey was on wonderful form. Now in his 75th year, he doesn't have the air of a man weary of his music, and both he and tenor Bobby Wellins were featured in the original 1965 recording! Excellent support at the other end of the age scale came from bassist Andrew Cleyndert and drummer Clark Tracey.

Under Milk Wood formed the entire second half; in the first, the quartet played a mix of standards and originals, including a sumptuous, breathy version of How Deep Is The Ocean, featuring Wellins's expressive tenor.

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