Thursday, 26 August 2010
Performing a collection of material from their debut album, Kairos Moment, and the occasional new offering, the band featured Jon Scott (drums), Jasper Høiby (bass), new member Ivo Neame (piano) and leader Adam Waldmann (saxophones).
Waldmann’s solos were considered and performed with a poise reminiscent of Julian Arguelles. Often leading with spacious gestures, the more modal tunes saw him weaving in and out with chromatic patterns and repeated cells that provoked an excited but measured response from the rhythm section.
An energetic improviser, Neame’s skill as an accompanist is assured with the freer moments between him and Waldmann being especially beautiful.
The group is conceptually strong with Waldmann’s writing suiting his improvising voice perfectly The grooves were deceptive, driven by Scott who expertly complemented Høiby’s fervent presence. New ballad Maybe Next Year began with an ancient calm from which emerged a lyrical folk inflected theme; an accessible style that underpinned a lot of the writing.
With upcoming appearances at Brecon Jazz Festival and The Forge, catch this new line-up while it’s hot.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
On the 21st July, The Vortex audience was treated to a most unusal event by Pianist Dave Morecroft (World Service Project) laptop whiz Leafcutter John and artist Gina Southgate. Southgate’s is a name that should be familiar to any Vortex attendee as it is her depictions of musicians and past gigs that adorn the walls of the club. A night of collaboration was to follow between the worlds of acoustic sound, electronic manipulation and abstract art and the audience, although small, was clearly excited by the prospect.
Ominous photos were taken of the three pristine canvases as various jugs, pots and spray bottles of colour were carried forward to the stage to the right of which were a collection of sundries including a barbeque grill and various lengths of plastic tube.
The first improvisation began enthusiastically with Morecroft disappearing inside the piano to pick, strum and slap whilst Southgate slashed and ripped back the plastic wrapping from the canvas with clamouring purpose. Leafcutter John was always alert and was quick to regurgitate manipulated sounds of the ensuing ruckus. Mostly abstract, the soundscapes never lingered too long and coalesced at times into pulsing trance like grooves.
The group dynamic took a twist with a more conventional instrumental with Morecroft’s original composition Underneath. Chanting and soaring like Satie, the music was lifted further by Leafcutter John’s textural presence. Southgate quietly captured the duet on a small canvas using a roller.
Southgate’s movements throughout the set were captivating as she applied paint in bold strokes, printed, sprayed, smeared and clattered about the stage with her various equipment (although sometimes a little gratuitously). At the times when her actions and the live sounds would naturally and coincide, magic was made.
The set was truly of the moment with each improvisation yielding its own painting. Revisiting an earlier canvas during the final number saw the additional scrapes and adherences give way to a dynamic picture that seemed to capture the mood of evening perfectly.
The performance was engaging throughout with each member of the unconventional trio acting with constant conviction, an impressive feat when considering that this was their first venture together. With the motivation and chosen stimulus of each member changing at various moments, the link between the audible and the visual developed as the set progressed. It was witnessing this creative process that was most exciting and assured the audience that they were witnessing something special.
There are no plans as yet to show the paintings produced so interested parties should ensure their attendance at the next gig, should there be one. I certainly hope so.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
The 7th & 8th July saw The Vortex play host to two piano trios namely Richard Fairhurst’s Triptych and the recently crowned Jazz Journalist Association 2010 Musician of the Year, Vijay Iyer in trio with Stefan Crump (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums).
Promoting their new album, Amicus, Triptych features American drummer Chris Vatalaro and, for the evening at least, bassist Riaan Vosloo filling in for band regular Jasper Høiby. The music was texturally nimble with both Vosloo and Vatalaro sympathising with every change of mood lead by Farihurst whose lines were delivered with an engaging purpose and unfaltering interest. The piano was present throughout and could have been forgiven if it were to lay out on occasion however with the sidemen perfectly complementing Fairhurst’s moments of inspired lyricism and angular aggression, the band dynamic did not suffer.
Farihurst’s solo piano interludes were reminiscent of John Taylor and buffered the compositions well. The introduction to Dense Fur was introspective and filmic in character and had one imagining a stark, icy landscape. This was most likely due the title conjuring the image of a polar bear in my minds eye (so I won’t pretend this is what it was actually about)!
The music captured moments of Mehldau, John Taylor, EST and Avishai Cohen and was accessibly melodic and intelligently composed placing the album firmly in my “to buy” list.
The headliners proved they were a band not to be missed with their set of “old stuff in new ways [and] new stuff in old ways”, as Iyer put it. The set began with a series of segued tunes that showcased a conversational approach can only develop from playing together over many years with the trio seamlessly moving between collective prevalence and considered solos. Varying wildly in texture and focus the band were drawing the most from each other and themselves and exploited the trio format its full potential.
Iyer’s presence was bold yet accommodating with moments of dark brooding, cathartic block harmony and fearless line playing. Crump’s solos were clear and engaging with strident pizzicato and scraping bow work separating the character of each whilst Gilmore was making the drums speak with a feel that made every new groove as satisfying as the last.
Never afraid to throw in the occasional popular tune, the arrangement of Human Nature had a sense of urgency whilst preserving its accessible lyricism and had both hardened jazz fan and occasional gig goer bobbing their heads approvingly.
The music was always carefully balanced; the mark of a trio that truly know how to play together. When busy the music was uncluttered, when intense it was controlled. It was complex and probing without being pretentious and was performed with a conviction that assured the audience that every note was meant.
Iyer will return to the Vortex alone to perform solo later in the year.
TJL (Tom Leaper)