REVIEW: Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes at the Green Note (2015 EFG LJF)

Shane Forbes and Nathaniel Facey

Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes
Green Note, 17th November. EFG LJF. Review by Rachel Maby)

Last night saxophonist Nathaniel Facey and drummer Shane Forbes, band-mates in Empirical,  treated the audience at the Green Note venue in Camden to an evening of sweat-infused improvisation. In the intimate 50-seat venue, Facey and Forbes performed a completely improvised one hour set, seamlessly combining jazz influences from 1920s bebop to gospel folk melodies.
The improvisation took shape within an eight movement form, bookending spacious ballad material with fast and furious swing. Forbes and Facey were taking an equal role in leading both the rhythmic and harmonic material, something which really came home in the second tune – a saxophone ballad played by Facey accompanied by a toms bass line played by Forbes. This was seamlessly followed by a Jamaican-inspired number featuring a simple crotchet, quaver, crotchet bass rhythmic feature, introduced by Facey on saxophone. The interest lay in the cyclical nature of the tune, from the moment the players tore the rhythm apart and then spontaneously returned to the rhythmic feature in unison.
The audience were obviously awed by Facey’s unceasing ability to churn out an endless palette of harmonic language and Forbes’ polyphonic rhythms. Perhaps more space in general could have been taken – silence wasn’t used enough. Equally, their dynamic maintained a constant mezzoforte or forte, and they could have gone further in creating suspense in their tunes by using more piano or even pianissimo moments, and drawn the audience in further.

That said, it was refreshing to watch a set of spontaneous improvisation at close hand. Forbes and Facey’s energy on stage was contagious and their passion, creativity and concentration on stage were a joy to watch and to experience.

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