If I’d been looking for a gig to pace myself gently into the London Jazz Festival, this wouldn’t have been the right one; because the London Jazz Collective are hard-hitters. And also because the Spice of Life (above), a favourite haunt of mine, is a very small space for such a powerful outfit. The noise limiter was peaking red for the majority of the set, but- somehow- the sound remained remarkably clean throughout.
This joyous 16-piece band took over and dominated the Spice with a brass-heavy sound and let rip into their first number, the uplifting “Gigitus.” The first set showcased refreshing compositions from current band members and the ensemble’s Australian alumni. Nick Blake ’s composition “ In My Blood ” saw the band turning its trade to James Taylor-style acid jazz where JC Caddy (drums) and Alex Hawkins (keyboards) pinned down the groove with beefy drum hits and dense, whirling organ harmonies.
LJC kept the audience guessing throughout the afternoon with their eclectic mix of funk, Latin, contemporary compositions and conventional big band arrangements. A few cracks emerged in the tightly scripted sectional lines and instrumental cadenza of the more challenging compositions, but that didn’t get in the way of confident and energetic performances of inspired, original pieces.
The end of the first set finished with an unusual theme, and Ballad For Mary Jane was followed up with a blaring rendition of Spider Man Theme. The band finished with up with Saskia’s Dance, a frisky up-tempo calypso with impressive combined tenor solos from Dan Faulkner and Nick Blake in which the traded fours before breaking into swing. The encore continued in similar fashion and groove based piano montunos, clave rhythms and another round of solos were rewarded with enthusiastic applause from the audience.
More showmanship, versatility and loud energy will be on display when the London Jazz Collective return to the Spice of Life on 3rd December.