Lew Soloff, Ronnie Scott's, London

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The Independent Culture

Soloff, 62, is familiar to Ronnie's audiences. The American trumpeter has not made that many albums under his own name, but his beautiful horn-work has graced many ensembles, in particular that of the late Gil Evans. He is one of the most in-demand session players around.

He has never led a band at Ronnie's before, and the club was full - although this may have been down to the stellar cast of his quartet, which included the vibes-player Joe Locke and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums.

The rotund Soloff cuts an unlikely figure behind the mic. His diction is stiff and hesitant. It's when he raises his trumpet that he really speaks. He has a very clear tone best heard in the higher registers in which he specialises, employed to great effect in a rumbustious "Love For Sale", which he topped and tailed "a capello", as he put it.

Although he's capable of playing as aggressively as an irritated wasp, and has a full armoury of effects and mute smears, it's Soloff's sweetness of tone that marks him out.

He may be personally reticent, and given to standing mute on stage, such as when he gazed at Locke during a vibes solo, his eyes widening during particularly energetic passages, but the rest of the quartet were not. From the first number, "MRC", Tain, Locke and the French double bassist François Mouton produced the kind of heavy swing that has the foot tapping and the knee pulsing.

Mouton's fringe flew around his forehead, Locke produced resonant, four-handed chords from the vibes, and Tain joyfully grinned and grimaced from behind the kit. Throughout their set, which included a version of "St Louis Blues" that updated it a century to a Sex and the City lounge bar and part of Gil Evans's "Porgy and Bess Suite", they owned that room. The quartet occupied the bop/ post-bop territory of hard swing, switching seamlessly into Latin and subtle rock.

The only surprise was in Soloff's slight anxiety. He fluffed a few notes and wasn't quite on the money in a couple of head sections. But as he said, after mangling a call for applause for his band - "How about a big round of hand?" - this had been his first time as a leader at Ronnie's. It was rather sweet.

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