The Art of Five

DAVID WAKEFIELD Norfolk and Norwich Festival event at St Andrew's Hall, Norwich


Perhaps this concert should have been subtitled The Art of Percussion, for there is no doubt that the presence on the stage of legendary American drummer Billy Cobham was the big attraction – and that's giving enormous respect to the remainder of this excellent Anglo-British band.

I've no doubt that there was a coven of drummers in the audience, for they are a breed apart when it comes to paying tribute to their mentors.

But there was so much in the sheer musicianship of the man to admire. Cobham is an intelligent and thoughtful operator, as well as being technically brilliant, and his opening gambit to the band's final number of the evening, Change Partners, was worth the price of admission itself for its control and drama.

This was no showcase for a star, though. The Art of Five is a closely-knit ensemble with considerable empathy among the musicians – Guy Barker (trumpet), Donald Harrison (alto sax), Julian Joseph (piano) and Mark Hodgson (bass) are the remaining quartet.

The concert got off to a pounding start with Joseph's My Brother; then the pace slackened off for what for this reviewer was the evening's highlight, Barker's wistful transcription of the old song Nature Boy.

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Barker was again featured strongly on Cobham's rocking Red Baron before Harrison produced one of the best solos of the night on his own tune Infinite Heart.

Even the drummers would have enjoyed it.

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