Review: Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet at the Spin, Oxford

Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet
(The Spin Jazz Club, Oxford, 12th April 2012. Review by Alison Bentley)

Jonathan Kreisberg‘s band is on a European tour- he told us they’d been travelling by snowmobile and donkey, but last night’s gig was just up a tightly-winding staircase in an atmospheric pub room .

There was a full house and total concentration from the audience for this remarkable band. You got the feeling Kreisberg himself could play absolutely anything with his amazing technique. He ranged from early Metheny to Allan Holdsworth-style rock (hints of Durutti Column?), Bill Frisell spacey sounds with volume pedal, Kurt Rosenwinkel and even Bach’s harpsichord pieces in his lovely concluding cadenzas. He played a semi-acoustic guitar rather than a solid-bodied one, which gave a real jazz feel to all his styles of playing.

Microcosm for Two heard guitar and sax in unison and harmony, with a Scofield style of hinting at the harmony with two notes sometimes a semitone apart. Will Vinson‘s rich, deep alto sax reminded me at times of Joe Henderson and John Coltrane, rather than alto players, though he named Paul Desmond as his current big influence. Jonathan has a great sense of humour, and spontaneously named a new tune after the club – its guitar and sax harmony and unison in asymmetrical phrases recalling the classic Lovano/Scofield era.

The styles were varied: Zembekiko was based on traditional Greek melodies, using harmonic minor modes which cropped up elsewhere in Jonathan’s solos. The funky double- bass groove moved into fast swing, and there were wonderful drum rolls and shimmering cymbal sounds towards the end from Colin Stranahan, who often looks to electronic music for rhythmic ideas.

Horace Silver’s ballad Peace (featuring the “low frequency poetry” and gorgeous melodic solo of Joe Martin‘s double bass) was a beautiful contrast to the exciting drum and bass feel of Stir the Stars .

Stella by Starlight was given a minor reharmonisation but Relaxin’ at Camarillo kept its be-bop structure. The range of moods went from the yearning From the Ashes (Kevin Eubanks and Dave Holland?) and the ballad Being Human , mostly in 3, with unusual drum accents. The final funky drum beats of The Common Climb had everyone on the edge of their seats with its freeform grooves and edgy M-Base intensity, and the expressiveness and humanity present in the whole gig.

As the unsung heroes of jazz- the organisers- hoicked the borrowed instruments and amps off stage, there was a sense of being part of something international in this small club with a big heart.

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  1. A great gig. There was occasional imbalance sound wise. Will was great with some inspired solos and adventurous Jonathan never stayed anywhere 'too safe for comfort' with this backup in place. The String Base was at rather muted volume and the Drums' spirited delivery kept quite a driven tone for most of the set. I thought the first set half was the best- but I sadly had to leave early. Maybe, from this reviews notes, I missed a good balancing end.

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