John Etheridge and Sweet Chorus – Lichfield Guildhall – 17th October 2003
Jazz Guitarist John Etheridge and his band, Sweet Chorus bought the music and passion of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt to a small but enthusiastic audience when they played at the Guildhall. The late change in venue to the Guildhall didn’t seem to deter the audience, with John Etheridge even going so far as to say how well the Guildhall was suited to acoustic music.
The ex soft machine guitarist toured with the great gipsy violinist Grappelli during the seventies, and his love of the music shone through in the performance.
The band, which included young violin sensation Christian Garrick, rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie and double bassist Pete Kubryk-Townsend played in a variety of style and moods throughout the evening.
The first set started with ‘When you Smile’, and the gently swinging ensemble was rewarded with warm applause from the audience. They played other jazz standards, and the interplay between Christian Garrick and John Etheridge during ‘Tiger Rag’ was astonishing, with the lack of drums and percussion being covered up by the hard-swinging rhythm of double bass and rhythm guitar.
The gentle ballad ‘Sweet Chorus’ was very well played, with Christian Garrick ringing emotional notes out of his instrument. The backing and arrangements of all of the music were very well-weighted. Although the band played much music from the Hot Club days of Reinhardt and Grappelli, this was no tribute to a by-gone era. By injecting their own personality, and experience the group was able to produce new readings of old music.
The first set ended with a musically surreal reading of Dave Grolnick’s ‘Nothing Personal’. High violin notes, and guitar clusters and a slightly lopsided rhythm gave the music a somewhat strange effect, and this was only added to by the red lighting that was employed during this point in the set.
The second half started out with just John Etheridge on guitar, playing a well-received medley of ‘The Nearness of you’, ‘Summertime’ ‘Bless the Child’ and John Coltrane’s ‘Moment’s Notice’. These performances showed the depth and breadth of John Etheridge’s learning and knowledge, as he was able to play the melody, chords and bass lines simultaneously.
The rest of the band returned for the rest of the set, with the highlights being the Etheridge/Garrick duet ‘Gentle Rain’ and the bass and rhythm guitar duet that was played towards the end of the set. The group encored with an emotional reading of the classic guitar/violin duet of ‘Nuages’.