Wednesday 25 February 2015

Robert Mitchell's Panacea - Friday Tonic

Robert Mitchell - Piano

It is hard to believe that this was the first visit to the Mastercard's Friday Tonic on the Southbank for Robert Mitchell's Panacea (13/02/2015). Such is the timing and rejuvenating qualities of this weekly dose of quality jazz that it is the very definition of a Panacea itself. Although lets not get swept away by hyperbole, both the Friday and Mitchell's tonic do have the ability to relieve the weekly stress and burden but unfortunately not to cure a multitude of diseases.
Tom Mason - Bass

The 4 piece Panacea ensemble featured the vocals of Deborah Jordan, Tom Mason on bass, and Laurie Lowe on drums alongside Robert Mitchell's piano artistry. It was the latter that brought me to the London's Southbank to right a personal wrong. In 2013 I sketched the Whirlwind Festival (Kings Place) from beginning to end but had to make difficult choices when more than one band was playing. Mitchell was one of the spaces left unfilled in my sketchbook, although he'd been on my hitlist since playing a sensational session for Gilles Peterson in 2006.

Without beating about the bush, Robert Mitchell was impressive from the very start and never faltered in quality. The two opening tunes were new in the Panacea repertoire, the first immediately drew my pen toward Tom Mason on electric guitar, by the second he had caught the ear too. Switching to double bass his bowing was gentle and arching, his sound reached over a spreading expanse. It was music that was hard to grip, a clawing remembrance of something significant in the mind.

Laurie Lowe - Drums
The Spirit Line was another gentle start, as if we were opening the pages of a book. The first lines of this novel were ambiguous and let us contribute to the narrative ourselves . Throughout we learnt only a small percentage of the character's back stories but we still identified with each of them. By the final chapters the piano of Robert Mitchell was raking us over the coals of denouement. A false finish gave the packed crowd an unexpected epilogue. Yet is was less of a conclusion, more of a nod to a future that held multiple possibilities.

Deborah Jordan - Vocals
If the definition of tribute is "an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration." then Robert Mitchell's eulogy to Debbie Purdy was given with openness. It was though we tiptoed through a darkened room, navigating the blackness with our hands held out in front of us. Blindfold or lights out, willing or forced, we walked with a steady pace even though we were apprehensive. Despite the lightness of instrumentation the composition sat heavy on us, like the lingering oppression of a humid sky.


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