(Monday 10th December, The Oxford, Kentish Town)
Preview by Alex Roth
With the sad end of Jack Davies’s “Jazz at the North London Tavern” series earlier this year, jazz musicians and audiences north of the river lost a really special thing: a musician-run weekly double bill with an emphasis on cutting-edge new music in a well-located (especially as I lived down the road at the time) and cosy living room-style venue. Even more special was that fact that Jack and his co-promoters had managed over two years to build up a regular following of audience members who would attend more gigs than they’d miss (myself included). And 100% of the door money went straight to the musicians.
One of the great advantages to the scene of gigs like NLT is the opportunity they present to try out new bands or material for a listening audience. My band Otriad actually gave its debut performance in the last ever gig there (although Jack assures me that’s not why the pub cancelled the series!) and our second performance was at my final MA recital marking the end of two life-changing years at the Royal Academy of Music. During my time there I was fortunate enough to meet, play with and learn from some amazingly creative musicians (teachers and students alike), including saxophonist/electronicist Joe Wright and bassist James Opstad, who I’m proud to say are now my bandmates in Otriad.
My ties to the other two members of the band go even further back – to birth in fact! My brothers Nick and Simon (saxophonist and percussionist respectively) have been among the primary sources of inspiration throughout my musical (and personal) development and in a way Otriad represents the most recent expression of a lifetime of shared experiences with them.
I’m pleased to announce Otriad’s third gig at another gem of the North London music scene, George Crowley’s “Jazz at The Oxford” series in Kentish Town, in the last concert before their winter break (but let’s hope not the last!).
The music we’ll be playing is a continuous 45-minute suite I composed for my MA recital, which has developed in rehearsals over the last year or so without any notation. It’s based on the remarkable story of the Bielski Otriad, from which the band takes its name (see the programme notes below), and is dedicated to my mother Joy, who inspired my brothers and I to begin our musical journeys and has been a constant source of support ever since.
Making this concert even more special for me is the fact that in the first set I’ll be playing with the Tom Millar Quartet, another band that grew out of relationships formed at the Academy and one that has been enjoying some lovely gigs recently. Some highlights with this band include a lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall, the beautiful acoustics and ambience of Riverhouse Barn in Walton-on-Thames and surely one of London’s friendliest audiences at Way Out West in Richmond.
Tom’s music is full of strong melodies, quirky rhythmic hooks and unusual forms (have a listen HERE) and I think it will make for a really interesting double bill.
Jazz at The Oxford
256 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2AA
Here are the programme notes:
The Bielski Suite
for my mother
In 1941, three Jewish brothers went into hiding in Poland's Naliboki Forest to escape capture by the encroaching Nazi troops. By the end of the Second World War, they had led over 1,200 other Jews to safety, establishing a tight-knit community that resisted the Germans on one side and their co-operating Belarussian forces on the other. The Bielski Otriad, as the group became known, defied the fate of so many of their kind by refusing to give up hope even under the bleakest conditions.
Part 1: Naliboki
Part 2: Bracia (“Brothers”)
for Nick and Simon
Part 3: First Rains, Last Rivers
for my father
featuring Philip Levine's poem “Starlight”
Part 4: The Truce
for Primo Levi
Part 5: Epilogue
Nick Roth – saxophone
Joe Wright – saxophones, electronics
Alex Roth – guitar, electronics
James Opstad – electric bass
Simon Roth – drums