Introducing the first live album from the Jay Rayner Quartet
A Night of Food and agony, Live at Zedel.
A live recording can capture a lot of things: not just the music, but the mood in the room; the tension and release of an audience closed away in a gloriously compact space like the Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zedel.
What it can’t capture is the story that brought everyone to that moment. Mine involves a private members club in London and the kindness of the top jazz musicians who play there every Friday night; the ones who were willing to let a piano-playing restaurant critic sit in with them and learn his craft. It involves a lot of seriously good whisky sours, drunk to help me find the courage to play.
And it involves a piece of luck. Any good jazz ensemble requires a fabulous singer who doesn’t just have tone and range but who knows how to tell a story. When I formed The Jay Rayner Quartet in 2012 I knew where to find one of those. I slept with her every night. It was my good fortune that Pat Gordon-Smith, the woman I was lucky enough to marry 25 years ago, has sung for longer than I’ve played.
There was another piece of good fortune. It’s not enough to choose songs; you have to know why you are playing them. Happily, I always have. My job as a restaurant critic gave me half the repertoire. Jazz and restaurants have been long intertwined. After all I met the Quartet’s brilliant musicians, bassist Robert Rickenberg and saxophonist Dave Lewis in the Ivy Club. And then there was my late mother, agony aunt Claire Rayner. The anecdotes she left me provided the other half of our set lists. Because so many blues songs sound like letters to a problem page.
The rest of this tale is familiar: we played gigs, first to small audiences and then to larger ones. We tried songs on for size, abandoned some and fell in love with others. We interrogated each other over every arrangement. And then I chucked in a few filthy gags. Five years on we have this: A Night of Food and Agony, Live at Zedel.
So pour yourself a Whisky Sour, settle back and enjoy.
You’ll find more information on the individual members of the Jay Rayner Quartet here.
Join the Jay Rayner Quartet for the album launch gig at Cadogan Hall on November 17, part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.
With support, Pete Horsfall.