Review: Mario Castronari

Review: Mario Castronari, Dominic Grant, Noel Joyce
(The Hare, Cambridge Heath, January 24th 2010, review by Rob Mallows/ Photo Mike Stemberg)

The East End is coming into its own in terms of jazz. To the success of The Vortex and Charlie Wright’s – to name but two – add The Hare in Cambridge Heath Road E2. A typical East End boozer – replete with pool table, framed Arsenal memorabilia (the Emirates being just up the road) and a jazz-loving pub cat – it also offers a warm welcome to jazz fans. The Sunday night gigs there organised by drummer Noel Joyce – which have been running successfully for over a year – have seen some great line-ups and are a worthy addition to the capital’s jazz scene which deserve wider support.

Tonight it was the turn of an acoustic strings trio, led by Mario Castronari on bass. One of the stalwarts of the London scene, Castronari came to prominence as founder of early nineties fusion pioneers Roadside Picnic, a fantastically inventive and pioneering band. Tonight, however, was more about having fun than breaking new ground. Castronari’s mixing of standard tunes like ‘Favourite Things’, ‘What’s New’ and ‘I wish I knew what it was to be free’ (the Film 2010 theme) with jazz interpretations of Beatles numbers – ‘Help’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – and even a Carpenters and Michael Jackson track or two meant the audience were kept on its toes playing ‘guess that tune’ or sometimes just singing along.

Fantastically agile up and down the fingerboard, at times Castronari was not so much playing the bass as wrestling with it, real high energy stuff that grabs you straightaway. His flourishes during his solo on Big Nick were worth the £5 admission alone; this is a man who pushes the boundaries of what a bass can do in a trio. Yet on the ballads, his languid riffs gave space for the tunes to breathe and a perfect platform for guitarist Dominic Grant.

In a month when the centenary of Django Reinhardt is celebrated it was great to be reminded of how an acoustic guitar – in the hands of a magician – can bring energy and toe-tapping vibrancy to any tune. A picture of intense concentration, Grant brought some astonishingly creative sounds out of his guitar, testing his strings with some hard-core strumming then swiftly switching to intricate runs from top to bottom. With Noel Joyce pounding the skins and tying it all together, over two hours these three musicians clearly had a blast, taking requests and providing plenty of banter with the audience, who responded warmly to their efforts.

Sunday nights can often be a lazy night. Your thoughts can turn to the ironing of shirts for the week ahead, or watching a bit of TV. Cast away those thoughts and head for The Hare. Enjoyable inexpensive, East End fun.

For more information about the weekly jazz nights at The Hare, click here. On stage in February are Timeline, The Will Collier Septet, Dominic Howles and Dave Frankel.

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