Review : e17 Jazz large ensemble/ Liam Noble premiere

Bedford-born, Oxford-educated, Guildhall-trained alto saxophonist, composer , teacher, band-leader Carlos Lopez-Real is a real dynamo. He is the driving force behind e17 Jazz. I was flabbergasted to discover last night that he has only lived in the Walthamstow area for three years.

Because in this short time he has got off the ground all of the following:

-Regular gigs which have been going for over 18 months.

-Other projects involving collaborations with film clubs, Indian musicians, and other community groups

-Yesterday’s all-day festival, courtesy of four external funders, with an education project, four small band gigs and the evening large ensemble gig.

Pause for breath.

The Mayor of London (who will make a speech this mornig about “investing” in the arts) and those involved in the Olympic boroughs’ cultural planning: PLEASE. TAKE. NOTE. OF. THIS. ACHIEVEMENT.

Note to arts funders: Supporting organizations with the creative fervour of E17 jazz is where your money will go furthest towards building cohesive communities. The best value anywhere.


Back to the gig

The E17 large ensemble is a 13-piece band. Recipe below.*

The band is made up of musicians who live in the area. Within it are fascinatingly contrasting voices. For eaxmple Jez Franks on guitar, Adam Bishop on baritone sax and bass clarinet, and most prominently Gavin Broom on trumpet , all have the scale of musical personality, both as soloists and in the band texture, which made the room upstairs at the Rose and Crown in Hoe Street feel very small last night. There are also gentler but equally strong voices, such as hugely versatile John Turville on piano and the musically punctilious singer Brigitte Beraha.

No trombones in the line-up? The reason given is that the instrument is allegedly extinct in E17. Uh?

The first half consisted of charts (not a weak one among them) written for the ensemble by band members Carlos Lopez-Real, Gavin Broom, John Turville, Dave Manington, and by trombonist (the trombone plot thickens!) Bob Dowell.

The people around me told me spontaneously which chart they would want to hear again first (It’s always a good test.) : They singled out Bob Dowell’s Oak Hill: sweet soft textures, some lovely legato over beautifully shifting changes, and a very affecting flugelhorn solo from Joe Auckland.

I also enjoyed John Turville’s ambitious and complex Waltz for Bill, a waltz chart which chugs straight off in strict 5/4 was a neat touch, and later there was good writing for the blazing trumpet section and a repeated baritone figure nailed perfectly every time by Adam Bishop which launched Carlos Lopez-Real into a chorus of nicely building intensity.

For me the stand-out chart was the first half closer, Dave Manington’s cleverly titled Gruntled which started with rhythm section rumblings, grew to a burning climax, and featured great extrovert soloing on the way from Gavin Broom on Flugelhorn, who contrasted nicely with the clever, thoughtful narrative and full-bloomed sound of Tori Freestone on tenor sax.


The second half consisted of a fascinating commission for the ensemble from Liam Noble. It consists of one short piece (Fragments, dedicated to Bill Frisell, (I enjoyed one gorgeous texture of a pair of trumpets and bass clarinet) which frames and comments the four main movements. In last night’s order these were Near Future, inspired by a short story of JG Ballard, In Praise of Shadows, from Noble’s growing interest in Japanese aesthetics, Place to Be, drawing on a setting of poet Robert Creeley by bassist/composer Steve Swallow, and finally Third Floor in memory of George Russell.

At a first hearing of these compositions, I was most struck by the rhythmic unsettledness and the harmonic questioning of In Praise of Shadows, which had Robbie Robson on trumpet and Carlos Lopez-Real sparring and dialoguing ever higher and building intensity, but which finished with the simplest sound of all: a hushed single note for solo voice.
What draws me irresistibly towards Noble’s work as both pianist and composer is two things: First, counterpont. By giving the counterpoint of different melodic voices free rein there are always surprises, clashes, it makes the journey always worth taking. And with the colours and textures available in this ensemble, the fluency of every improviser in the band, such delights were frequent. Second is the fact that Noble can pare things down to the sparse and minimal. I am normally averse to the repetitiveness and directionless of minimalism, life just seems to short.- am I alone? -but in Noble’s work there is always a direction of travel.

These are pieces which deserve to be heard again. In a concert hall. And preferably soon.

(*) Recipe: take the conventional 17-piece big band line-up. Remove one trumpet and the entire trombone section, and add a singer.

Categories: miscellaneous

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