Wednesday, 25 February 2009

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 élan. 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.

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