Matt Hallsall Group. (Left to right:Gordon Wedderburn, Alfonso Ambles, Rachael Gladwin, Gavin Barras, Matthew Halsall, Taz Modi, Nat Birchall, Luke Flowers)
Photo credit: Roger Thomas
Matt Halsall Group/ Orphy Robinson’s Codefive
(Ronnie Scott’s, August 8th 2011. Review by Roger Thomas)
With judicious placing of candles Matt Halsall and his band just went for it from the start, as if it were any other gig. Starting with Alice Coltrane’s ‘Journey In Satchidananda,’ thecalmness drew you in. ‘A Love Supreme’ featured Nat Birchall, the arrangement plumbing the depths and the passions of Coltrane. Arco bass with glissando harp paved a way for Birchall’s Eastern soprano tones on ‘Blue Nile’. The mystical theme advances when Matt takes the head of ‘Samatha’ an original composition. Throughout, the piano carves definitive lines with a creative complement of percussive sounds from Luke Flowers. It was business as usual, but, before the last number, ‘The Journey Home’ Matt did admit to the audience that the whole evening had been a very unusual experience for them all.
Still without power Orphy Robinson’s Codefive kicked off the next set. The original composition ‘Yeh’ opened with Jean Toussaint’s tenor and Dudley Phillips’ bass. Played as if the two were taking a cool stroll, Orphy’s vibraphone solo entered the fray, injected a whole new energy, ratcheted up the temperature in the house by degrees.
With the audience seemingly acclimatised to the environment the dissonant piano lines of ‘Big Foot’ sounding like a calypso steel pan with the bass subtly throbbing a steady—almost Jamaican dance hall—pulse you could see gentle body movements from the audience. With some bebop references from vibes and saxophone the ingenuity of the composition brought a smile to my face.
The ingenuity continued when ‘Step In 2’ segued into ‘Sweet One For Two’ with it’s palette of staccato piano phrases and sweeping arpeggios from the vibraphone to a dark arco bass and piano duet, influences of a Bach prelude appear as saxophone, piano and vibraphone create a contrapuntal playground of phrases marshalled by Dudley’s bass and a defining swing from the drums.
Also impressive was, although positioned in the darkest corner of the stage Orphy could play with four mallets and with such precision. This performance was definite testament to seasoned musicianship.
Rounding off the evening guest singer Chantelle Nandi sang ‘Mellow Dilemma’ and ‘Soledo Tassi’. Nandi was all the more impressive for having no microphone or artificial reverb to assist her.
The evening was true testament to the ability of acoustic jazz not to disappoint. Had a rock band been booked the night of a power cut, and the show would most definitely not have gone on!