Review: Night 3, Barry Guy New Orchestra at Cafe Oto

Barry Guy and Maya Homburger playing Rondo for Nine Birds at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved

Barry Guy New Orchestra
(Cafe Oto, 22 May 2014; third of 3-night residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The Barry Guy New Orchestra wound up their 3-day residency in exhilarating style with sets constructed around 2 major works, Amphi, a seven part composition, written with the focus on Maya Homburger’s baroque violin, and Radio Rondo, for concert piano pitted against the entire orchestra.

Johannes Bauer (trombone) and Barry Guy (bass) kicked off with finely nuanced sparring in a gently improvised duo that had passages spun so carefully that they might have been scored.

This set the tone for Amphi, New Tales of Enchantment, in an extended arrangement for improvising ensemble of a composition originally scored for violin and bass, which Guy positioned as ‘having more to do with chamber music …’. The initiative was passed around a changing flux of small groupings, balanced against Homburger’s lightly strung baroque violin with a sense, as Guy explained, of the orchestra forming a metaphorically protective amphitheatre shape around the violin. Foils to the breadth and delicacy of Homburger’s sensitive virtuosity, the self-contained voicings from each of the briefly convened groups ranged from the brightly accented to the quietly introspective, mirroring the spirit of Elana Gutmann’s seven paintings which had inspired the suite and from which each movement derived its title.

Topos, the Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton trio augmented by Agusti Fernandez, rolled out a ferociously dynamic blast that appropriated the guise of a swarm of angry bees before sailing out in a joyful mash of pummelling, crashing and hissing articulation.

Rondo for Nine Birds, a recently composed Guy/ Homburger duet of extraordinary technical and emotional beauty, inspired by the art of Fred Hellier (who was in the audience), was a dazzling exposition of the sophistication and inspiration that runs through their unconventional, yet harmonious, musical collaboration, drawing together the worlds of improvisation and early baroque.

The only way to follow such a tour de force was with another! The full orchestra delivered such a powerfully visceral performance of Radio Rondo that it should have carried a ‘Danger – high explosives’ label. Loaded with vigorous, staccato movement – not least from Guy, simultaneously playing bass and controlling proceedings from the front – the razor-sharp interactions and challenging responses from brass and woodwind made for a compelling mix of military precision laced with improvising bravado. Agusti Fernandez was the pianist in the firing line and responded to everything that was thrown at him with unshakeable gusto and invention, hands leapfrogging over the keyboard until he took over the conductor’s mantle in the final stages. This non-stop roller-coaster was the perfect way to sign off the BGNO’s richly rewarding 3-day season at Cafe Oto.

BBC Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 recorded this performance for broadcast on 23 June. 

Barry Guy / bass director
Johannes Bauer / trombone
Agusti Fernandez / piano
Per Åke Holmlander / tuba
Maya Homburger / baroque violin
Per Texas Johansson / sax, clarinets
Hans Koch / sax, clarinets
Paul Lytton / percussion
Evan Parker / sax
Herb Robertson / trumpet
Raymond Strid / percussion
Jürg Wickihalder / saxophone


Geoff Winston’s interview with Barry Guy
Review of Night 1
Review of Night 2 

Categories: miscellaneous

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