Django Bates’ birthday should be made an annual event. The Gala for his fiftieth in a packed Kings Place Hall Two felt like a very special occasion indeed. But the celebratory mood which his band Human Chain creates is something we definitely all need. Yes, we in London should have opportunities to celebrate Django Bates, and celebrate with him, more often.
The infectious, exuberant mood came most obviously from Django himself, visibly revelling in the vast range of sounds he was extracting from his keyboard. Not just sounds of instruments, but announcements, a cock-a-doodle-doo, a cow, a small child reading, his imagination leaping ever-onward.
It was there too in the springiness in the step and in the wonderfully controlled and characterful vocal lines of Swedish vocalist Josefine Lindstrand, resplendently blonde in a red and black polka dot shift dress. More celebratory contributions came from Django’s brothers: Dylan giving bite to the higher frequencies on violin, and Roland, full-toned on trombone.
It was also to be found right at the rhythmic heart of the band, in Michael Mondesir’s ever-watchful gaze over impeccable drummer Martin France – a look which kept bursting helplessly into the broadest of smiles.
But above all the joy and the exuberant anarchy come from Bates’ compositions. The concert gave an insight into his range. Yellow Hill from the first Loose Tubes album still has astonishing freshness. The panoply of sounds in “Noise” were a joy to hear, and a test for the sound crew (they passed brillliantly) and “You Live and Learn..(Apparently)” has an irrepressible bounce to it and that unforgettable quote: “Around each corner is a new mistake, simply much too good to miss.”
Django Bates was fulsome in his thanks. To long-term collaborator Iain Ballamy who guested towards the end of the concert, playing with concentration and sheer class, and then getting into some riotous duetting with the young and impressive Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset.
Others thanked were promoters: from early in the career, Johhny Edgecombe and Ronnie Scott both passed away; “my first bandleader” Tim Whitehead, Bates’ manager for eighteen years the tireless Jeremy Farnell, and the UK promoter who has backed Bates the most consistently, Tony Dudley-Evans. And also his parents. His dad, not least for his record collection, and his mother – for taking him… by bicycle, through snow, to violin lessons.
A memorable evening from a major and massively influential figure in European music.
The regular Saturday night jazz in Kings Place Hall Two, The Base continues next week with United Vibrations, promoted by Spitz Music.