Monday 24 March 2014

Get The Blessing - Antimatters

Jim Barr - Bass
Black suited, white shirts, focussed demeanours, they meant business in their own oblique kind of way. Get The Blessing launched their fourth album 'Lope and Antilope' at the Jazz Café earlier this month (05/03/2014). The healthy throb of the audience was as black (attired) and thick (in numbers) as Jim Barr's lush beard. Darkened even further by the gothic wonder of EYOT who had played moments before in support.

Clive Deamer
It was a long list of 14 tunes that ebbed and flowed throughout the night, the fluidity of the performance being it's strongest theme. Amongst me there were a few who were disappointed that they entered without flame coloured cellophane masks. This malaise was quickly dispelled by a disorientating journey through unpredictable compositions and pulsing beats.

Jake McMurchie -
The Bass spoke loudest on the opening exchanges, the second 'Antilope' let us descend into the depths and Jim Barr was a dominant figure despite alternating in and out of the shadows. He is every inch a villainous looking figure, the most gangsterish of the quartet, if he was to add a few inches to the waistband and wear a scarlet cummerbund he would be legendary Albert Spica of Thief, Cook, Wife, Lover fame. Although I imagine he does not thrust forks into women's faces or his enemies into dog faeces.

Pete Judge - Trumpet
The third tune heralded a theme like a Spy Thriller and the saxophone of Jake McMurchie caught the imagination as though he had pushed Lalo Shifrin down a set of steep stairs. Whodunnit? It was McMurchie, and again on 'Quiet' and impressively during a buzzing 'Low Earth Orbit' with it's pulsating roll against an exotic landscape.

Clive Deamer was straight and powerful throughout and was hard to capture on paper despite being the fulcrum, rhythmically and physically (on stage) for the music to rise.
Adrian Utley - Guitar
Adrian Utley immediately made an impression when he was introduced for the fourth tune but it was the subsequent 'Luposcope' where he bowed his way into the audiences psyche. The result was a hollowness that was as attractive and compelling as a seaside town out of season. Secrets discovered when alone can sometimes be the most deeply felt. Even though I stood next to jazz-man Steve Marchant and introduced myself to three McMurchie groupies Rachel, Julia and Jacqui it was very much a voyage of introspection and for losing oneself in the folds of Get The Blessing's warping melodies.

John Hegley - Poet/Narration
Before I disappear up my own arse let me cling onto something much more tangible. Past the night's halfway point Get The blessing were joined onstage by poet John Hegley who musically narrated 'Alphabetically Disorder', complete with dance moves that Basil Fawlty must have practiced before the mirror in his youth. The incongruity of Hegley's witty words and the aforementioned choreography against GTB's moody loops was delicious.

Going by Get The Blessing's performance, 'Lope and Antilope' will provide us simply with the space and the process that catches the mind. Not easily digestible in one night and worth more than one sitting, it needs to be heard and to be given the chance to fire the imagination.


Thursday 20 March 2014

EYOT - Gothic wonder & darkness

Dejan Ilijic - keys
The shortness of this review reflects just the 40 minutes afforded to us at the Jazz Café earlier this month (05/03/2014) to absorb the Serbian raiders EYOT.

Marko Stojiljkovic - bass
The dark stage was punctuated in pools of purple light and it suited this four piece who were spread wide in the crepuscular atmosphere. With just four tunes to pin both my sketches and impressions I will dispense with long annotations of the compositions themselves and start directly with EYOT's spokesman. The stubbled Dejan Ilijic was often stooped in the shadows as he hunched over his keyboard. His dark handsome aura was very much reflected in the music, which was as powerful as his ox like shoulders. His driving piano interposed with melodic loops created much of the levity in EYOT's performance. Those of us who occupied the front rows, and I stood next to legendary Jazz-face Steve Marchant, felt the bellyache vocal murmurs of Ilijic in our very guts. Without amplification these base rumbles created a background wave of humanity amongst the sea of electronica.

Sladjan Milenovic - guitar
There were large sections of the set that were dominated by the guitars of Sladjan Milenovic and Marko Stojiljkovic. These led to an air of cutting and rasping penetration. Despite his stature or maybe because of it Stojiljkovic played with head  bowed, it lifted and nodded repeatedly like one of the humorous dogs in the rear window of a car. In contrast Milos Vojvodic lifted his into the air, his long face rising above his drum kit as though savouring a sweet smell.

Milos Vojvodic - drums
The overall effect of EYOT was a balancing act between heavy looped motifs and playful melodies. There was a real force behind them, driving like a battering ram at times, it swept to and fro, with a rhythm that was reflected in their final tune's Balkan beat. It was modern medieval jazz, raw and uncut in the main with flashes of sophisticated beauty, like being transfixed by the hidden complexities of a gargoyle whilst standing in the shadow of a gothic cathedral. Wonder and darkness.


Monday 17 March 2014

Derek Nash - The Spark

Derek Nash
Ever since I have been drawing Jazz musicians Derek Nash has been part of my sketchbooks but this is the first time I have been able to contain this exuberant performer within this blog. It is not only words that struggle to restrain his energy but also my sketches which never do justice to a dress sense that features a lurid line in flowery shirts and stage choreography that would be more at home in a Bruce Lee film.

Within 90 seconds of his entrance at the Twickenham Jazz Club (27/02/2014) he had already treated us one of his trademark hitch kicks. Luckily I sat next to Derek Nash's beautiful wife, Beverley, for the evening and she confirmed that Nash youthful dance moves do not cause him any injury, even as he skirts close to his half century.

Alex Hutton- piano
The leg kicking opener soon became Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" and we saw flashes of what has made Alex Hutton such a popular keys man at TJC. The perkiness of his recent engagement to singer Kate Winter saw his head bobbing between a pair of 'Harry Hill' style collars. Like virtually all piano players Hutton has an intensity in his gaze which is unnerving but his feet give us a clue to his more homely nature, as usual they were devoid of shoes while his socked feet jigged to each tune's melody.

Oli Hayhurst - Bass
 A favourite of the first set was Derek Nash's "Waltz for my father". With (bent) soprano in hand he painted us a colourful picture, this was a tableau of pure pointillist skill, like one of Seurat's Parisienne riversides. The small light dabs of Nash's saxophone taken in their entirety gave us a broad emotional vision of his father as we sat back and viewed it from a distance. Derek Nash is a closet culture vulture and in the break between sets divulged the sweet spots of a recent trip to Venice.

Asaf Sirkis - drums

"The Spark" of the night was rightfully reserved for a new tune of the same name. So new that Derek Nash crouched close to the floor, his chart just inches away from his face in The Bloomsbury's sombre lighting. It has a rolling lyrical quality that Alex Hutton exploited with a calypso breakdown which ultimately resulted in  Oli Hayyhurst's wonderful slow descent amongst the tumult. Hayhurst has an easy static style, often both eyebrow raised in inverted Vs, mirroring two gables on sturdy barn.

Kelvin Christiane - Tenor Saxophone
Even when Derek Nash is deep within a ballad he slipped in a leg kick or two, like an Uncle who can't resist blasting in a cheeky penalty past his nephew in the back garden. Asaf Sirkis on drums was the height of subtly and Mrs Nash was taken with his striking mallet work on Grover Washington's "Winelight". It's irresistible sexual beat inspired her to describe Sirkis as a "handsome Freddie Mercury".

Bobby Timmon's "Moanin" brought the tenor of Nash and TJC Maitre Kelvin Christiane together. The latter was surprisingly introspective but typically robust in his playing. He kept his eyes down, his body trapped between green and purple lights like he had been caught in a flickering Hitchcock film.

Derek Nash will forever be the scene stealer. How can you focus on anyone other than him when he not only plays his instrument with such aplomb but continuously looks like he's warming up in preparation for a football match. As well as his trademark hitch kick we were treated to the can-can leg flick, the bounce from foot to foot, a couple of knee bends and also the sweeping of his sax beside him like he was paddling a canoe against a strong current. Here's a musician who never stands still.


Thursday 6 March 2014

Terence Collie the Conkerer

Jac Jones - Tenor Saxophone
All too often we cannot see what is right under our noses and I'm as guilty as the next man. Last month (16/02/2014) I took the long train ride down to the south coast to see South West London's Prison Break at the Southampton Modern Jazz Club. Again it is with regret that I do not venture out enough to hear live music in these rich pockets beyond the M25.

A series of near misses had whetted my appetite for Prison Break, a long list of dates including Terence Collie on piano had evaded me but it was the boss of the SMJC, Ted Carrasco, that persuaded me to go the extra mile and see the quartet. For me it was a 4 tune set that chose equally from their 2 album/, "And Again" and "Doing Time".

Terence Collie - Piano
Straight-in was Jac Jones, thick and meaty on "Jinxed". An uncompromising gambit and a showcase for a talent that is unassuming, even apologetic in its demeanour. The Bent Brief, where the SMJC resides was modestly full, with an equal share of the sexes it was neither edgy nor buzzing but respectful.

There was more sparkle up next in the lyrical piano of Terence Collie on "One Year On". Smooth and effortless, it was almost a homage to the engineer (and altoist) who originally helped record it at Clown's Pocket Studios, Derek Nash. Repeating melodies on saxophone cast salty waves over us and reminded us that the sea lurked somewhere nearby in the dark. It was Collie who started to shine through. He has a gaze that wilts you at a thousand paces when he is in the zone, the term furrowed brow does not do him justice, more corrugated in its intensity.

John Sam - Drums
My attention was taken by the night's drummer on "Prison Break Blues", whether this says more about his powerful presence than the tune I do not know. Joe Sam has a deceptively subtle edge for a man who looks like he has been in a few scrapes, but with a brow to match Collie you wouldn't want to get caught in a staring contest between the two.

Joe Sam - Bass
The most impressive tune was "Niner Blues" which features the rich and energetic bass of Joe Sam and just enough touch from brother John on drums. Deceptively mysterious with a whiff of North African wonder in sax melody it builds from a gentle Terence Collie solo until it couldn't contain itself any longer. Thrusting and direct by the end, the bass of Joe Sam had an earthy thumping tone like a 5 ton horse chestnut falling from a tree. If this tune was indeed a conker it would be far more than a Niner, it would be pickled in vinegar and baked in the oven before reaching triple figures at least. Collie has every right to prowl the playground with this tune in his pocket and a composition in a head that resembles the bronze patina of a prize nut.

A few more trips are planned to the SMJC this year, I see that Paul Jordanous plays there on the 22nd June. Unfortunately I'll be missing the TW12 Jazz Festival (3rd August) this year where you'll be able to hear Prison Break at their best.


Tuesday 4 March 2014

Gabriella Swallow - Urban Family Picnic

Gabriella Swallow
We gathered at The Forge (12/02/2014) in Camden to join the party, to feel included in Gabriella Swallow's extended family tree and listen to a rich variety of musical collaborations. Firstly the name of the concert tonight, Gabriella Swallow's Urban Family was deceiving, this was not a mixture of rappers entwined by cultured harmonies, nor a group of feral foxed musicians who had honed their skills in the backrooms of pubs or played for door money in pool halls. This was the cream of the crop, top drawer performers brought together by Swallow herself. They came into her embrace through a desire to collaborate at the highest level and because friendships blossom in Swallow's company.

Clive Bell -  shakuhachi
Gabriella Swallow was the near constant throughout the two set night on cello. Her trademark Struwwelpeter hair was surprising indigo rather than the flame colour I had sketched before. The Forge was packed out, not a seat free and I perched to the side, frantically scribbling away. I did not sketch everyone, such was the revolving door nature of the evening.

John Garcia Rueda
It was an unusual experience playing the voyeur at this concert, with the obvious chemistry bubbling away on stage and the cohesive bonhomie it was impossible not to become a little envious. It was like watching one of those dynamic groups of young people who have thrown out their tartan blanket on Hampstead Heath for a picnic. Alive and joyful they lark about, they are bright and talented, drawn together by the knowledge that things just happen when they are in each other's company. If this concert was 20 years earlier it would have been directed by Kenneth Branagh with a small change to the title, swapping 'Peter's Friends' for Gabriella's.

Jeremy Silver - Piano
The gig opened with Clive Bell on Shakuhachi, while John Garcia Rueba gave us an energising tiple with his 12 string guitar and not forgetting Swallow (cello). A brave opening that didn't awaken the senses with a crash but piqued our curiosity and set the tone for the unexpected. There was a beauty, an emptiness, an unease from Clive Bell, a whispering wind that stretched the boundaries, making us forget that we were squashed deep in the heart of Camden rather than the expansive steppes suggested by the music.

Genevieve Wilkins
The next performer is a popular entry in my sketchpad, her charismatic beauty never fails to excite my pen but it was Sally Silver's husband Jeremy that filled an A5 page. Too short a performance as always, Madame Silver was engaging and emotive. Her expression of word and demeanour is a performance in its itself, as she gathered her hands under her chin, it was as though she was squeezing imaginary lemons into a glass perched just above her bosom.

Guy Johnston - Cello
To stretch the unexpected theme of the night even further we were treated to Andrew Ford's "Composition in blue, grey and pink" by percussionist Genevieve Wilkins. Playing on her knees as though in prayer, she was mostly shielded from our gaze by a curtain of blond hair. 5 cymbals in total rested on the floor, 2 large silver and 3 bronze dinner plates resting on a swathe of foam mattress moguls.

Lucy Schaufer
Hindemith's "Duet for 2 Cellos" was a hit with the crowd, Guy Johnston pedalling tandem with Gabriella Swallow, which was then topped off by an elevating tango. This was followed by the vocal performance of the night. Mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer sang  first "Errol Flynn" and then "Make me a kite" both from her recent album Carpentersville. So full of pathos and tenderness. It was a powerful bookend to the first set.

Elizabeth Cooney - Violin
The second set was a more raucous affair with a galloping effervescent pace and any number of beautiful people to train my artistic eye upon. You will have to forgive me if I have not dutifully mentioned or sketched all.

Elizabeth Ball - violin
Three duelling violinists immediately grabbed the attention. The statuesque Elizabeth Ball although relegated to the wings was piercing with her clarity and presence, while Una Palliser swayed that willowy dexterity of hers so much we felt the lash of her whip deep within the audience. Alongside Elizabeth Cooney they followed Piazolla with Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances".

Martynas Levickis - Accordion
With his fop of sandy hair and boyish grin Martynas Levickis proved an instant hit too. Accordion players are always a welcome relief for an artist, for the instrument is a ball and chain to keep the performer relatively stationary for sketching purposes. This was not the case for Levickis' trouser slapping Lady Gaga rendition, it seemed the spirit of the unconventional pop chameleon had possessed our Lithuanian with bawdy talent. He vibrated with orgasmic pleasure as the tune hits its peak and line after line missed its mark on my sketchpad paper.

Seth Parker-Woods
Although I did catch a quick scribble of Seth Parker Woods I couldn't capture Leslie Boulin-Raulet (violin), Helena Smart, Polly Wiltshire or Zoe Martlew (Cello).

Graeme Flowers - Trumpet
Jazz was a breath of fresh air for this correspondent, with familiar faces and a powerful chest filled loudness that counteracted the previous 30 minutes of entwining strings. Graeme Flowers headed a quartet of Gareth Huw Davies (bass), James Pearson (piano) and Pedro Segundo (drums). It was a cheeky and enjoyable "Nostalgia in Times Square", Pedro Segundo's was memorable throughout proceedings, notably when the slapping of his tambourine felt like I'd wandered into a spankathon of excitable proportions.

Ian Shaw
The concert came to a close with the voices of Annabel Williams and Ian Shaw. The latter was virtually incommunicado in flat peaked cap and 'barrow boy' blue jacket. Between Shaw and Swallow it was a spirited finale with flowing peaks and a strong interaction that epitomised the collaborative ethos of the whole night.

Despite it being a fictitious vision I still imagine that I will encounter Gabriella Swallow and her urban family in one of London's grassy parks this summer, where I will set up my easel and rattle of an Alex Katz pastiche to capture their natural trendy cohesion. Perhaps I might be invited to share a gin and tonic while I let their laughter wash over me.