Kings Place 2012 Festival
(September 14th-16th . Round-Up review by Sebastian Scotney – Friday, Saturday; Rob Edgar – Sunday)
The fifth annual festival at Kings Place, celebrating the anniversary of the opening of the building in 2008, brought in almost twelve thousand visitors, over just three days. Each year, the number of sold-out gigs has increased. And this building, where we produce LondonJazz, certainly felt the busiest it has ever been.
The programming team keeps to the formula of putting on 100 events. It’s as if they’ve now invented a tradition. People might have questioned it at first, but now it’s established. The space gets used boldly, relentlessly. As the team gets to know it they try new things, like a stage right by the Box Office this year, alternating every hour with another free-stage two floors below.
Because of force majeure, this year’s 103 events had to be shoe-horned into just three days rather than four. We heard a small selection of what was on offer. Here’s an open invitation to readers to add comments about the good things we missed…
FRIDAY –Sebastian Scotney
Already on Friday lunchtime the building was busy, there suddenly seemed to be pushchairs everywhere. Singer-songwriter Richard Godwin gave a set of songs, some of them inspired by Elliott Smith and Jacques Brel on the new Box Office free-stage. It was well received, but there were a lot of passers-by…
Alexander Hawkins performed two sets in Hall Two. In both the first – solo piano – set and the second – trio – set, the key idea was exploration, that sense of creation in the moment. From the very start the vibe was of concentrated listening. A chord. A cluster. A chord. Another chord. Hawkins played with oppositions and paradoxes. Order and disorder. Clever use of mirror images and opposites. The first set had influences from the French classics – Ravel, Messiaen? …
In the second trio set with Neil Charles and Tom Skinner, the intense interaction continued. I found myself mesmerised by one thing: that any pulse – briefly- established can also imply/ signal/ suggest -or perhaps disguise – a pulse at twice or four times the speed; or conversely at a half or a quarter of the speed. The tempo is basically free, so these moments don’t last for long, despite the magnetic sense of groove of Neil Charles. The bassist has that commanding Ron Carter/ John Pattitucci way of setting a pulse – for the others to question, to subvert. It requires concentration to listen to music unfolding like that, but it’s really worth it.
Saturday – Sebastian Scotney
I heard a fascinating lecture by Dmitri Sitkovetsky on transcribing the Goldberg variations – they’ve been done on accordion and, unbelievably, flashily, by a German saxophone quartet. Then a highlight on the box office free-stage, a duo performance on the box office freestage by Julia Biel and Ben Hazelton was a reminder of how strong a performer Biel is. I was told this was their first outing as a duo – I’d never have guessed if I hadn’t been told.
The main jazz event of the evening was a set from Troyka. Newcomers to their music around me were bowled over. It was the first outing of a new tune which grows inexorably, Chris Montague’s Ornithophopia, the title relating to an incident with a dead bird on Bamburgh Beach in Northumberland.
Ivo Neame’s octet is a vehicle for sonic contrasts with piano and vibes (Jim Hart on his busy wedding weekend) and three saxes. I particularly enjoyed Neame’s first solo. It was as if, liberated from the responsibilities of assembling the players and the material, he could suddenly jump headlong into the unknown. Perhaps no pianist in Europe does out-of-the-starting-gate exuberance quite like Ivo Neame. Festival is an over-used word, but Neame needs no reminder how and where to find and use the (imaginary) turbo pedal on a piano.
Sunday – Rob Edgar
Sunday saw the third and final day of the densely programmed Kings Place festival. Kings Place is the perfect venue for this collection of varied performances and it became a bubbling hub of all styles of music and performance art (there was even a traditional Indian ritualistic dance on one of the free stages in the foyer – SEE PHOTO ). This – coupled with the excellent catering facilities and canal side view – made for a great day out.
Daniel Herskedal on tuba and saxophonist Marius Neset play a short set comprising mostly of songs from their new album Neck of The Woods. It was truly a treat to hear just how full a sound the duo could get from just saxophones and a tuba. Marius Neset on sax seems to owe a small debt to fellow Norwegian Jan Garbarek in his soaring, lyrical and contemplative lines, whilst Daniel Herskedal, armed only with a tuba, reverb and loop pedals, could coax every sound imaginable out of his instrument (towards the end even playing what sounded like a cross between a percussion section and slap bass).
The Norwegian landscape really shone through in their playing, the echoic, call and response sound with so much space for the lines to seep through was profoundly reminiscent of sheep herders calling across the fjords and mountains.
Saxophonist Josh Arcoleo played an afternoon set with Ivo Neame on piano, bassist Tom Farmer and the tenacious Josh Blackmore. Despite being fairly shy and timid in addressing the audience, Arcoleo had a wonderful laidback playing style that sounded delightfully care-free.
The most remarkable thing about the set though, was that it had an overall form (much like a symphony or a concerto). It started with an almost aleatoric introduction wherein it sounded as though the players were constructing the piece note by note from nothing but a referential Ab, which they often returned to. InGlade, the only ballad of the set, Ivo Neame played some Bill Evans inspired chord voicings with Josh Arcoleo providing an aching melody which, somewhat unusually, was then picked up seamlessly by Tom Farmer on the bass.
After one of the most thoughtful and organic drum solos I have ever heard, by Josh B, the final tune returned to that aleatoric construction and deconstruction theme of the first, centering again around the note Ab. The set had taken off and landed at the same spot it where it began.