Guardian Praise for Ambulance Live Show
11 February 2008The Guardian
John L Walters
Ronnie Scott's refurbishment ushered in many improvements, but fans fret that its musical values might drop in inverse proportion to comfort levels. No need to worry tonight: Arnie Somogyi's band Ambulance are deep into the kind of full-tilt, hardcore blowing on which the club was founded, augmented by legendary US trumpeter Eddie Henderson. Over two intense sets, the six musicians make an overwhelming case for jazz that is visceral, intellectual and disciplined, while wowing an audience of musicians, fans, hacks and punters.
There are nods to earlier eras: Henderson was the brilliant trumpeter in Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi sextet and seen as a convincing alternative to Miles Davis. When Hancock's band broke up in the 1970s, there was a sense of unfulfilled potential. So Henderson is making up for lost time, delivering magnificent, magisterial solos.
Somogyi's musicians rise to the occasion, with an imaginative rhythm section that drives everything energetically, and a mainly original repertoire, including several tunes from their new album, "Accident and Insurgency". The ensemble arrangements are brief but cleverly structured so that the mood of each piece is sustained during the improvisations.
Henderson, playing flugel and open and muted trumpet, negotiates the nuances of each chord change while rooting his improvisations in the blues. Drummer Dave Smith has an energetic, sometimes explosive style that holds everything together. The sound is predominantly acoustic, but they make ingenious use of Rob Townsend's laptop on Broadside and the inventive Captain Courageous, which morphs from sampled clatter and melodica clusters to a loping shuffle with a hint of Mingus - full of humour and substance.
Related LinksArnie Somogyi's AmbulanceAccident and Insurgency