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London Jazz Festival Review: Janek Gwizdala Band ft. Jason Rebello, Pizza Express 12th November

Left to Right: Jason Rebello, Janek Gwizdala
Photo Credit: Cat Munro

Janek Gwizdala Band ft. Jason Rebello
(Pizza Express, 12 November 2012. LJF. Review by Rob Mallows)

Janek Gwizdala’s Fodera bass has two extra frets (26 instead of the usual 24) and a cut-away body. More notes, more possibilities. He squeezes every ounce of musical juice from his instrument, and if that requires an extra fret or two, or an effects board with more pedals than a cathedral organ, then so be it.

Gwizdala stretches the potential of the electric bass as both a rhythm instrument and as melodic lead. His finger-playing style is intense and fast. Always on the front foot, head down bobbing intensely, and spurred on by a Pizza Express audience which had filled the place to the gunwales, he drives himself and his band hard.

Pedals and sequencers gives Gwizdala a rich palette of sounds and the opportunity to harmonise his bass (sometimes two or three riffs at once) and accompany himself with some fantastic scatting, building a fantastic sound that for all the electronic pyrotechnics is fundamentally about great rhythm and tone, particulalrly on Bethany, dedicated to his wife. Gwizdala was clearly stoked at playing alongside Jason Rebellowho is now back on the jazz scene playing piano in the endlessly creative way that gave him wunderkind renown in the early nineties. Gwizdala, informed the audience that he had told his classical piano teacher after hearing Rebello’s first album as a kid: “I wanna play like that!”

With powerhouse drummer Louie Palmer laying down the groove and sax player Duncan Eagles guesting (“I’m honoured”, the Londoner told me afterwards), the band made a lot out of very simple musical building blocks. For example, a descending chord sequence with a single note riff on the piano evolved into a monster tour de force of invention, intensity and energy.

Much of the music was new: a tribute to Peter Erskine, “Erskoman,” opened the show, and African rhythms and sax reverb over a blues-y chord sequence were the hallmarks of a new tune Kinshasa.

Duncan Eagles was having a busy night. In the first half he presented his own band Partikel. Eric Ford’s drumming was pacey and he eschewed power for a more spare approach with plenty of moments of near-silence (interrupted only by the clinking of cutlery) and space for bassist Max Luthert to build lines of increasing intensity based on very simple motifs. Indeed, he rarely went down the path of a conventional walking bass line, choosing to find beauty in restraint and simplicity. The standout track was an arrangement of Body and Soul.

Partikel ‘s collaboration has developed over time into real trust between the band members, giving them the confidence to leave gaps in the sound and room for invention. The intensity of playing in front of such a demanding crowd, Eagles told me, gave them the impetus to get it right straight from the off – which they did. The band is looking to continue touring and considering the addition of electronica to their sound in future.

Judging by this gig, contemporary jazz is in rude health.

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