Tribute to a master

Bury FestivalSweet Chorus, Theatre Royal, May 24THERE are tribute band and there are tribute bands.Some are designed to cash in on the originality of the original, others, like Sweet Chorus, are a labour of love, guitarist John Etheridge's tribute to the legendary violinist Stephane Grappelli comes from the heart.

Bury Festival

Sweet Chorus, Theatre Royal, May 24

THERE are tribute band and there are tribute bands.

Some are designed to cash in on the originality of the original, others, like Sweet Chorus, are a labour of love, guitarist John Etheridge's tribute to the legendary violinist Stephane Grappelli comes from the heart. He worked with the eccentric Frenchman for several years and his Sweet Chorus shows are littered with tales and anecdotes both sad and humours…. And with Etheridge on the scene, there are mainly humours.


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An engaging personality, Etheridge is also a superb musician, and certainly one of the finest and most versatile on the current music scene. He also attracts some fine musicians to work with him, and they don't come much better than violist Christian Garrick who plays the Grappelli role with such dedication and panache that you close your eyes and you could think you were listening to Grappelli himself.

Then there's Andy Crowdy of the double bass, a true master of his craft, and rhythm guitarist Dave Kelbie who is an important part of the quartet. They opened with the spirited When you are Smiling, that set the tone for this highly entertaining evening. It was highly varied too, and the next number was the wistful Don't Worry About Me with Garrick extracting every ounce of feeling after the violin.

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All four musicians were quite capable of chonk, chonking along as the others took their solos but they were equally capable of delivering much more as Dave Kelbie in Swing 39, and Andy Crowdy did in Oscar Pettiford's Tricitism.

Etheridge himself opened the second set with a short medley of tunes that included the beautiful Nearness of You, and then whizzed his way through a couple of rockish blues numbers before ending with I've Got Rhythm. Such skill and finger dexterity and he brought fully deserved applause from the good sized audience.

If there is any criticism to be levelled at Etheridge it is the length of time he spends talking about Grappelli, but then, it's a labour of love, and he enjoys every minute of it, and the audience lap it up to.

It was a wonderful show and Sweet Chorus gave the audience exactly what they desired, including a quick burst of the hugely popular Limehouse Blues, the melodic Nuages and After You've Gone.

PETER CRUMPTON

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