Moonlight Saving Time
(Oxford Jazz Festival-The Tree Hotel, Iffley Village, 4th April 2012. Review by Alison Bentley)
Cycling up the hill in the rain (in Oxford style) to the gig, I was thinking about the band’s name- it suggested something eccentric and English, like a Django Bates album title, and wasn’t sure what to expect. I arrived to find this Bristol-based band – whose name, it appears, is derived from a kookie Blossom Dearie song – playing a moody 5/4 version of Afro Blue, with Emily Wright‘s deep-toned vocals in unison and harmony with Nick Malcolm ‘s trumpet. There was a real band sound, not just soloists with backing- improvising all together over their loose, understated latin and funk grooves.
Emily has a beautiful voice, strong and clear with just an undertone of breathiness, and very accurate on the tricky intervals of tunes like Black Narcissus and Corea’s Morning Sprite. At times it reminded me of Flora Purim’s wordless improvising, with a dash of Julie Tippetts and even soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae. Emily named particular influences as Kurt Elling and Gretchen Parlato. Her duet with double bassist Will Harris on You Must Believe in Spring was a highlight – and the audience were quiet for the fine bass soloing and lovely vocal solos.
Will Harris ‘s strong rhythmic double bass pulse underpinned Mark Whitlam‘s rich drum textures, particularly strong in the latin and funk grooves of Spain and the Isley Bros’ Footsteps in the Dark.
It was good to hear the voice as a front line instrument with trumpet. Nick’s energetic flurries of chromatic notes, cool tone and playful squeals made me think of Freddie Hubbard and Tom Harrell at times.
Jon Hyde, on guitar, was at different times melodic and angular with a beautiful harp-like intro to Spain. Hints of Herbie Hancock’s Fender Rhodes style were in Dale Hambridge‘s keyboard playing, both virtuosic and expressive,
Not quite Difficult Listening Hour, as the thoughtful arrangements led the audience through unusual timings (Chick Corea’s Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly in 7/4) and spiky chromatic improvisation. It was a full house, and the audience was with them right from the start. The choice of tunes was refreshingly imaginativeness – it would be great to hear some originals and a recording too.
This is music for the heart and the head, and on the strength of their sell-out performances at Brecon (where they had to be moved to a larger space) and Glastonbury, Moonlight Saving Time are ready – and surely deserve – to play at bigger venues soon.