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Review: Cai Marle-Garcia

Review – Cai Marle-Garcia & Hyderabad
(Charlie Wright’s, December 17th 2009, review by Rob Mallows. Photo credit: Mike Stemberg)

Cai Marle-Garcia is a 23-year-old self-taught player of the fretless bass. His mastery of the instrument, his groove-filled chops – and his his pink pyjama bottom slacks – bring to mind the late, great Jaco Pastorius. And, if you love bass-led jazz, that can only be good thing.

Marle-Garcia had assembled a crack band to launch his debut album Mr. Ears. The always innovative Kit Downes – bearded and hoodied – supplied some pulsing keys; Darren Altman on drums slotted in well with the bass and kept things moving along; James Lascelles on percussion used an arsenal of toys and drums to add rhythmic colour flashes (though, on a couple of tracks, I felt there was a little too much percussion); Tony Woods on sax blew, and blew hard, but he also knew when to bring it down a notch on tracks like Orpheus. Sagat Guirey on guitars spent quite some time knob-twiddling on his pedals board but, once he was satisfied with his mix, threw out some great high-end riffs to complement Marle-Garcia’s low end rumblings.

As an ensemble they were tight, there wasn’t an ounce of musical fat on them. The band was full of groove, particularly on the latin feel of Black Beast of Bolivia, and they demonstrated that fusion has a place at the top table of contemporary jazz. They all seemed to be having a ball.

Unobtrusive at the back of the stage, and unfazed by the failed PA microphone limiting interaction with the (disappointingly small) audience, Marle-Garcia was content to let his bass do the talking.

Clearly influenced by Pastorius’ tone and approach -and dress sense!- Marle-Garcia nevertheless has carved out his own style: marvellous phrasing, dextrous runs up and down the fingerboard with pitch perfect precision. Marle-Garcia has that knack of making it sound perfectly natural for the guitar to be up front leading the melody. Definitely a name to watch out for.

Dan Nicholls ‘ Anglo-Danish band Hyderabad offered a challenging set of contemporary jazz . This band’s excellent use of time signature changes and poly-rhythms shone on tracks like Kinski (so good they played it twice). Angular rhythms and jagged harmonies emulated the character of the notoriously unstable German actor. Sax player James Allsopp was on good form, mixing legato passages with Ornette-ish sweeps up and down the scales and hard-core blowing. Bit I thought some of the tracks went on a tad too long, and to judge by some of the audience’s propensity to chat, I may not have been alone in thinking this.

Allsopp was ably supported by keyboardist Dan Nicholls, bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Marc Lohr, who gave his frequently re-adjusted drum kit a full work-out. I have to admit that this wasn’t my cup of tea at first hearing, but repeated listening might well bring more rewards.

Rob Mallows runs the London Jazz Meetup Group

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