LIVE: Partisans. “By Proxy” album launch. Pizza Express
I keep going back to “Partisans.” The first time I heard them was in a free gig in the Festival Hall ballroom in the London Jazz Festival. That was particularly inspiring. Because that is an audience of the curious-open-to-being-persuaded, rather than necessarily of the committed.
And since Partisans play uncompromisingly complex improvised music, I remember feeling a lift to witness an audience of about five hundred people of all ages, their attention completely held by the music, their grey matter, their hearts and their feet all thoroughly involved.
I then remember a set in the Everyman Theatre in the Festival at Cheltenham. Tony Dudley-Evans (I’ve written this before) always, always puts the right acts into the right venues. Check. It was electrifying.
The Pizza is different. It’s much closer-up. And where I was sitting was astonishingly close-up. All I can say is that if anyone wants to know what a life-force is all about, where the source of kicking energy in a band might come from, sit where I was, about three feet from drummer Gene Calderazzo’s (bottom left above) hi-hat cymbal. When the sole of Calderazzo’s left baseball boot is hitting that thing about two hundred and sixty times a minute, you gain a different idea of what makes the world go round than from anywhere else I have ever been. Bassist Thad Kelly is as impressively solid and supportive and musical as bassists come (bottom right -hiding- above)
That was all I really noticed in the first number, “Advance.” I don’t think I actually noticed the two main protagonists till they got the equally breakneck second number “Lapdog” under way. Julian Siegel on tenor and soprano saxes (top left above) , and Phil Robson (top right above) on guitar have been having fun sparring with each other like this for twelve years now. It is as if one (good friend, former housemate, with complete respect for musicianship etc) might be trying to knock the other off the stand with the complexity of the material. Partisans is a good name, but the band could equally have been named after Michael Brecker’s second album: “Don’t Try This At Home.” Another silly band name idea would be “No deps allowed.” You get the idea.
The new tunes are described by Robson as the “nastiest” the band has played to date. And there was indeed a contrast when the band played “Snarf” off the first album. There is a range in the writing. One number seemed to slip off quietly into a next room of 1960’s musique concrete, the final number of the second set was straight into a loping calypso feel.
Leave the last word, I think, to American bass legend Steve Swallow: ‘Partisans present some of the most refreshing music I’ve heard in a long while, uncompromising, very well written and very well played. It demands serious attention. I hear in these players a sense of common purpose and resolve, and a strong command of a dialect uniquely suited to this music.’
I’ll buy that, and I know I’ll be back for more. Partisans are on at the Vortex on
1st August. Not a difficult decision: straight into the recommended list.