Let's get into the swing of things

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2007, 12:00am

To jazz aficionados, Dave O'Higgins is known as a great saxophonist, recognised as one of the finest British musicians of his generation.

This is some consolation to him since a lot of people will remember him as the bloke who played a busker in The Return of Mr Bean.

Fortunately, O'Higgins has other high-profile performances to his name. His playing on Martin Taylor's instrumental cover version of Robert Palmer's Johnny and Mary - used to advertise the Renault

Clio in Britain - runs the Bean gig a close second, and he also appears on Jamie Cullum's 2002 release Pointless Nostalgic.

He's worked as a sideman with artists such as Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Peter Gabriel, but is

also an accomplished bandleader. Since he last appeared in Hong Kong at the old Jazz Club, he's been busy recording, and gigging, most recently to support his new Jazzizit Records CD In the Zone.

O'Higgins' fast, bebop-influenced playing is music for the head, but also music for the feet, he says. During the past few years he's been working on the road with dancers and would like to see the music he plays for his two shows in Hong Kong this weekend filling the dance floor.

'I was doing a series of 40 educational workshops in secondary schools around London and my colleagues comprised an instrumental quartet for members of the Jazzcotech Dancers,' he recalls. 'I was initially sceptical, although their director, Perry Louis, soon convinced me that he was a font of knowledge on jazz and related music, and that their brand of highly charged fast footwork - mostly to super-fast bop tempos and jazz sambas - bore a great relevance to the music.

'People used to dance to jazz and then the beboppers put a stop to it in an attempt to have their music taken more seriously. Sometimes I feel we have now taken this too much in the opposite direction in our attempts to impose some gravitas.'

Backing O'Higgins on this weekend's dates will be British drummer Josh Blackmore and two old friends from Hong Kong - Eugene Pao on guitar and Sylvain Gagnon on bass. O'Higgins, who has played with another Scottish jazz guitar great, Jim Mullen, and Martin Taylor, is looking forward to renewing his association with Pao.

'I've been very lucky with guitarists and Eugene is right up there with them. I'm really looking forward to this next project and I have chosen some of the material specially with Eugene in mind.'

Some of the music performed at Grappa's will be drawn from In the Zone. The evening will be a tribute to O'Higgins' jazz saxophone heroes, including Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson, whose old horn he now plays.

'The material will start from a straight-ahead perspective and include standards and original compositions. I like good harmonies and strong forms,' he says.

Dave O'Higgins, tomorrow, Sat, 9pm, Grappa's Cellar, Jardine House, 1 Connaught Place, Central, HK$350. Inquiries: 2521 2322