Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Vortex Music Market, 22.02.09

The first Vortex music market took place on Sunday 22 February. There were stands from Babel shop, 33 Records and Czech Music Distributors, giving a good cross-section for a first time. Of course it would have been good to have had more labels and so on, but certainly it seemed to generate a lot of discussion amongst us about the state of the world, as it relates to jazz!
Of additional interest were 3 boxes of CDs which the Vortex has inherited over the years. Promos, and some private donations. All these are available for £2 with the money going straight into the Vortex coffers. Quite a range quality wise, as one might expect. In fact, one visitor found an album (by Norwegian group Oslo 13 including a young Nils Petter Molvaer and Jon Balke) that he has been unable to get hold of anywhere. So it shows that it's always worth nosing around.
The next one will be held on 22 March, probably downstairs in the bar because upstairs is being used.
Remember. Anyone wanting to display can contact the club or me.

Loop Collective Festival 12.02.09 - 15.02.09

Four nights marked four years since the Loop Collective’s foundation. It was a festival which proved the success of the Collective’s ambition to liberate the artistic diversity of its members and thereby captured a spirit of celebration, exploration and community.

Successfully programmed to avoid stagnation and overexposure to specific musical forms, the first night shone a beacon towards the quality and diversity dawning on the horizon. The Dave Manington Quartet ushered in the festival with nods towards Latin, funk and bop. Guest vocalist, Brigitte Beraha’s ethereal, Floria Purim influenced layers of harmony complimented tenor saxophonist, Mark Hanslip’s melodic expressions. Ma, whose name conflates matriarchal reference with the instinctive cries of Aries, welded electronica, drum and bass and hard- bop. A discordant electronic soak from their own guest artist on laptop, Steve Arguelles, contextualised the pulsating up-beat minimalist drum and bass groove from drummer, Dave Smith. Abstract avant-bop figures from tenor saxophonist, Tom Challenger were echoed by Arguelles as reference points for melodic developments.

Friday’s programme revealed the ferocious musical imaginations of the Loop Collective’s members. Dog Soup’s tribute to late-60’s Miles found the right balance between abstract expressionism and deeply introspective funk. John Turville, on Fender Rhodes wrung the points of harmonic tension to full effect, permeating the sonic waves created. The Ivo Neame Quartet projected an elegant post-bop aesthetic. Smooth in the attack of phrases, pianist, Ivo Neame wove a warm, velvety texture through the set. A strong contemporary classical influence radiated from the Kane/Bonney duo. Melodic lines were thatched together with symmetry and coherence. Trumpeter, Alex Bonney’s stately tone expanded concepts against inventive harmonic and percussive textures from double bassist, Dave Kane who pushed the capacity of the instrument to its expressive limits. Layers of electronic baritone guitar effects glared out with a stark, sinister antagonism as guest artist Stian Westerhus brought his brutal metal influenced vernacular to Fraud’s closing set. As if inspired, tenor saxophonist, James Allsopp furiously attacked the phrases into which he developed powerful Brecker-esque harmonic expansions culminating in raging bursts of upper register screams. Westerhus’ brooding, malign a cappella solo featured abrasive drill and distortion effects which subsumed the audience’s consciousness before the group settled into a stirring rock groove.

St. Valentine’s Day, a time for lovers to indulge in Cupid inspired affection. Perfectly appropriate then that the festival’s curators had programmed music tinged by the bow of that lively youth. Blink’s Monk inspired post-bop set the tone. Dissonant but reasoned melodic themes were constructed against pianist Alcyona Mick’s angular, sparse voicing and heavy harmonic structures. Phronesis, featuring Danish drummer, Anton Eger, injected a dose of spritely funk into the proceedings. Mesmeric, highly illustrated rhythmic patterns and ornamental fills brought vivacity to strong melodies. Outhouse, produced a more abstract/folk quality to the jazz/rock theme hinted at by their predecessor. The two tenor saxophones, played by Tom Challenger and Robin Fincker, synchronised their melodic delivery before establishing spilt voice chromaticism and sprawling solo efforts over concise and engaging harmonic forms by double bassist, Johnny Brierley. As a fitting overture to the evening’s amorous ambiance, Sam Crockett’s luscious late 50’s Coltrane lyricism and burnished tone delivered balmy melodic themes with a confident √©lan. The quartet featured pianist, Gwilym Simcock whose graceful melodic flourishes and harmonic voicing bore a gleaming romanticism.

A driving rock groove punctuated by rhythmically perceptive moments of silence arrested the attention as Gemini opened the final night’s entertainment. This updated interpretation of Steps Ahead gestured towards contemporary musical forms such as drum and bass while, Ivo Neame now on alto saxophone, issued a glistening, funk infused hard-bop against piercing shards of sounds from Jim Hart’s bowed vibraphone plates. The nine-piece Rory Simmons led Fringe Magnetic brought the festival to a triumphant close. Insightful horn and string parts jostled for position as self-sufficient strands of harmony and melody combined to create a captivating audio construct. Simmons, on trumpet, sliced through with a commanding solo embracing Latin, bop and contemporary classical influences. Vocalist, Elisabeth Nygaard brought a strong cinematic dynamic to the performance.

The variety and quality of the performances provide robust anecdotal justification for the artistic attitude invigorating and uniting this Collective.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Marc Ducret Trio - 28.01.09

In judging the quality of a musical performance we may regard honesty as an alternative model to the poles of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Does a given performance honestly communicate the thoughts and feelings of the musician? Does it “fight the average, average”, as electric guitarist, Marc Ducret had us reflect? The answer on this occasion is most resoundingly affirmative.

Coursing through the veins of Ducret’s trio are tensions that propel an elevation above the “average” he so abhors. If we consider that the genesis of a musical idea is a wholly conceptual entity then bringing that concept into actuality by means of an instrument entails that only one expression of that original conception can take place at any one time. If that original concept inspires multiple mental phenomena then only one can be actualised. The others are frustrated at that moment in time from actualisation. Marc Ducret uses this frustration to energise his music with a brutal intellectual tension. Equally, a severe rhythmic tension is conjured by a paradoxical technique that aims towards a non-rhythmic execution while maintaining a strong rhythmic backbone i.e. to play time and not play time. These tensions subsume the listener in an audio-phenomenal ecstasy.

Bassist, Bruno Chevillon matched Ducret’s idiosyncratic vernacular with highly eloquent blues based phrases that suggested a synthesis of Daryl Jones, Eddie Gomez and Miroslav Vitous. Ducret absorbed these forms and subjected them to vicious distortions and dreamy chord sustains that warped the harmonic swell created. Chevillon’s expansive runs erupted into abrasive chordal sequences that spurred Ducret into post-apocalyptic melodic lines. Contrapuntal percussive possibilities were exploited by drummer, Eric Echampard. His sharp ornamental flourishes and dominant backbeat provided a powerful rhythmic platform for Ducret to challenge the audience by continually alternating between rhythm and lead phrasing.

The euphoria generated by this performance provided emotional confirmation of the honesty of this music. It manifestly fights the average, average.

Marc Ducret

Seb Rochford/Troyka/Zed-U/Normal Gimbel - 26.01.09

Soho - the spiritual home of British modern jazz. As if to echo the days when Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Peter King and others could be found experimenting with the latest musical developments, the Pizza Express Jazz Club featured four distinct and diverse musical acts that each ride on the crest of the latest wave to emanate from the jazz idiom.

The role of the guitar playing folk-laureate does not typically find Seb Rochford within its domain of practise. Tonight however, was about defying convention. This solo set revealed an instinctive, late Chet Baker-esque anti-technique on vocals and acoustic guitar. The Bonnie Prince Billy folk/punk aesthetic haunted the melodies which themselves derived from a folk/country tradition.

To conjure a statement of intent, Troyka’s set descended upon the venue with a heavy electronic reverb effect. Drummer, Josh Blakemore built the sound with tight funk inspired rhythmic patterns which transmuted into a heavy progressive-rock beat. Electric guitarist, Chris Montague injected angular post-bop/rock phrases that resonated with a Bill Frisell “country” infliction. A sense of in-performance compositional development radiated from Kit Downes’ electric keyboard. His powerfully funk infused melodic progression siphoned into sparse melodic and rhythmic distortions illuminated by electronic refractions.

Norman Gimbel, an American lyricist who wrote for contemporary musical luminaries such as Dave Grusin, Michel Legrand and Antonio Carlos Jobim would have been endeared by the third set performance of Normal Gimbel. This a cappella duo featuring Alice Grant and Ruth Goller, brought sardonic contemporary lyrics to a choral singing style that borrowed from the twentieth century classical post-minimalism of John Adams. “I’ve come to understand why people who are bored sometimes jump off a cliff...” they chimed with enigmatic charm and self-conscious provocation.

Pensive, introspective, menacing meditations provided an optimal contrast. Zed-U opened with searching contributions from its three protagonists. On tenor saxophone, Shabaka Hutchings hypnotically circulated around the core theme, emphasising its inherently arresting design. Over drummer, Tom Skinner’s burnishing rock groove, Hutchings developed the phrase with brutal abstract Brotzmann-esque atonal and a-melodic saxophonistics to reveal the extreme noise end of his technique. Neil Charles’ electric bass line engaged in a virtuous spiral of intensity with Hutchings. Charles infused the post-jazz/prog-rock aesthetic with powerful bashment, soca and dub implications.

The vivacity and diversity of this programme energised a thrilled audience, emphatically proving that this scene is a spirited voice for contemporary British culture.

Seb Rochford


Normal Gimbel