Alfie Dean Quartet Takes Over Jazz Sundays At The Ruin 09/10/22

Writer Henry Hanssen / Photographer Reece Downton

The Ruin in Digbeth continues its rated series of monthly gigs, which aim to display the vibrant and ever-expanding Birmingham jazz scene, with Alfie Dean and his quartet. Since previous gigs have been held by the likes of drummer Matt Holmes, and tenor sax players Edi May and Jonah Thom, I’m looking forward to what The Ruin’s got in store for me this Sunday.

Currently in his fourth year at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Alfie Dean has created a reputation for himself as a skilled guitarist, taking inspiration from all walks of the jazz canon. Joining him in this performance is Nick Manz on piano, Tom Marsh on upright bass, and Reece Downton on drums.

Alfie and his band open the set strong with an original arrangement of ‘Aerigin’ by Sonny Rollins. As a set opener this steam rolls the audience, Alfie weaves through the tune with ease, demonstrating an impressive bebop sensibility that feels right at home with the rest of the band.

The chemistry that’s displayed between Nick Manz and Alfie is a standout of the whole set, with them exchanging exciting ideas, knowing exactly where to take each tune. This musical bond really shines in a rendition of Richard Rogers’ ‘Bewitched’, a sweet, densely melodic ballad that Nick and Alfie sound truly at home on, both providing articulate and unique solos.

On the more high energy tunes, the backline of Reece Downton and Tom Marsh proves to be a great asset. Tunes like ‘Hey It’s Me You’re Talking To’ by Victor Lewis, benefit greatly from Downton’s heavy and consistent swing that matches Marsh’s low-end anchorage, forming a rock solid base for Alfie and Nick to explore the harmonic potential of what is undoubtedly an extremely challenging tune.

One of the biggest standouts from the set has to be Alfie’s original tune, ‘Platform 2’, which is as melodic as it is rhythmic. Alfie demonstrates a mature and powerful compositional voice with peppering’s of Radiohead, Mike Moreno, and Brian Blade. All this culminates in a contemporary, almost psychedelic sounding tune that will perhaps go down as my favorite of the set.

Alfie Dean and his band put on an impressive display of musicianship with Alfie’s constantly developing improvisations, Nick Manz’ piano prowess that is just as impressive in his solos as it is in his accompaniment, Reece Downton’s powerful and swinging drums which persistently elevates the music, and Tom Marsh’s reliable and creative bass work.

I am hopeful that these four musicians will play together again soon. This surely was too musically special to only happen once.

Information about the rest of the band members upcoming gigs and projects can be found on instagram via: @Nickmanz, @tomtom262, @reece.downton_ and @_alfie.dean

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