Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Ben Castle and Will-o-Wisp

Ben Castle - Saxophone
I just had to close my eyes after 90 minutes of Ben Castle and Makoto Kuirya's set at Pizza Express last Friday (08/03/2013). The last hour and a half had been a frenzied scribble of scratches, sweeps and dots. The music had captured my soul and replaced it with an overflowing voltaic pile of Jackson Pollock energy.

I had a wonderful view courtesy of my hosts Mike and Gail Watts, who had bagged a central table. They had discovered Castle at Nottingham's Splendour Festival, he was dressed as a matador and playing with the idiosyncratic Duke Special so they did not know quite what to expect. It is true, even in more conformist attire, he is hard to categorise as a player and person. I suspect he does not know himself, he is an excellent player and is probably having the time of his life playing and exploring the boundaries of his musical playground.
Makoto Kuriya - piano

He is modest and easy going, deliberately stepping out of the limelight during the performance to support others. I'm sure his generosity encourages advice from all quarters, to play this, try that, jam with me and change your style. His foundations run deep though (he was anchored by his father's sax in hand), and his strong grounding allows him to express and explore without restraint. Who else could slip a Minogue melody into proceeding while wearing his Mountie striped trousers with such dead-pan cheek. The future changes from day to day for Ben Castle, the next day was a visit to the Maida Vale studios with his piccolo and then further afield to finish an album project of Pop tunes in a 30's jazz style with two other singers.

What had brought me to a state of near exhaustion was Makoto Kuriya on piano. He was an untamed ethereal force whose speed and execution was hard to mirror with my pad and pen. His lightweight frame bounced in and out of his chair, frequently his left hand kicked back like he was a rodeo star bucked by the piano's ferocity. His mouth was continually animated, it bit, chattered and snapped at imaginary 'amuse-bouche' that floated in front of his starving eyes. Even without sketchbook in hand it was hard to keep up.

 I watched the charming lady (Sarah Hadland) opposite me, as her eyes darted in hypnotic spirals. I asked her at the interval what she thought of the performance, "I'm desperate to see what's on his chart. I can't believe there's any notes written down at all. He's so free, physical and dynamic, like the flow is more important than the direction".
Understandably he is a hard man to capture and remains a will-o'-the-wisp type player that will take many viewings to trap in my artistic jam jar.

Arnie Somogyi - bass
MK's compositions were not my favourites of the evening though. That dubious honour goes to Arnie Somogyi and his tune 'JJ' which starts with a throbbing bass line and flows beautiful into lyrical swing.

I had a particularly bad view of drummer Bence Bolygo but could hear he was travelling at a good mph, there was no chance of any Salford traffic warden giving him a parking fine for nodding-off.
Bence Bolygo

Now it might look like I was falling asleep in the last 30 minutes but my body had taken an assault to its senses. The pure speed of Kuriya's playing had rendered my sketching hand exhausted and useless. Sometimes you've just got to give in to the music and listen. Shutting down all other senses....and....listen.

Still listening.....


Me listening
Photo Mike Watts


  1. Wonderful review of the evening and since I was sharing this superb evening of music can say captured with great accuracy both in words and the devine sketch studies :)