Following on from its launch back in December with Plastic Mermaids, St James in Guernsey kicked off their Global Collection series for 2023 with a visit to the island from upcoming, young, jazz trumpeter Jackson Mathod and his band with new local four-piece, Holmes, opening the show.
Made up of three quarters of Bordeaux Blue in Glenn Holmes (guitar and occasional vocals), Andy Degnen (fiddle) and Paul Harrison (bass) along with Squirrel on drums, they made an unsurprisingly confident and assured debut.
With Glenn leading the band with some great guitar work that was subtle when needed but also found plenty of time to shine, he performed with a relaxed and assured confidence of the sort that only comes with his level of experience while also showing an underrated skill as a frontman and songwriter.
Spanning sounds from something akin to The Eagles through jazz, blues, some folky moments, boogie and more, including one that reminded me somewhat of Buffalo Huddleston thanks to the fiddle, the four piece were greeted exceptionally warmly by the crowd who were already filling all the seats around the venue, laid out in so-called ‘cabaret style’ and left us, so we thought, nicely prepared for the evening’s headliner.
Taking to the stage with trumpet in hand and dressed in tracksuit, trainers and a matching beanie hat, Jackson Mathod was not exactly what I had been expecting (though I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure what I expected) but, as he and his band progressed through their first track, it quickly became clear we were in for something special as energy and a terrific sound flowed from the stage.
Mathod himself was captivating and an epicentre for that energy whether he was blowing the kind of jazz that balanced technique and inventiveness with something undeniably accessible or driving his band on to show off their respective, and highly impressive talents.
For those of us with less experience of the style they gave a context for the the music in a somewhat indefinable way (thankfully they didn’t stop to explain it verbally), while also, it seemed to me, having enough inventiveness and intricacy for the more dedicated jazzers present.
Leading the band for more than an hour he expertly guided us all through upbeat tunes, contemporarily relevant pieces, some truly heavy stuff (Harry Pope’s drumming even hit headbanging territory at one point) and, mid set, a spectacular slower number that brought the focus down to just Mathod’s trumpet and the piano of James Beckwith and was truly goosebump inducing – and he even found time to get the audience even more on side with some light hearted but pointed comments about Aurigny’s baggage policy for musical instruments…
As they closed the set the big and varied crowd that filled the hall (which had a real jazz club feel despite its more classical concert hall reputation) called them back for a genuine encore for which Mathod encouraged the crowd to get on their feet and moving and many swiftly made their way to the front and a new level of energy was found for two more tracks, before they left everyone still wanting more.
Even with my possibly jaded view of live music from experiencing so much over the years, nights like this remain special and startling as what Jackson Mathod and co did here was just what live music should do, whatever the genre.
They were transporting and entrancing while bringing what I can only describe as joy (even in those darker moments) through conviction and attitude and a sense of fun being had by all involved, on stage and off, so much so that, in the moments after the band left the stage, I hastily tracked down Gregory Harrison (venue deputy director and the man behind tonight’s festivities) to say I couldn’t wait for more like we’d just seen and heard and I hoped they’d be bringing Mathod back as well in the not too distant future.
Jackson Mathod: One to watch out for. Sounds like a he delivered.