REVIEW: Tori Freestone’s Birthday Gig at Pizza Express

Tori Freestone at Pizza Expres
Photo credit: José Carlos López Ruiz

Tori Freestone’s Birthday Gig
(Pizza Express, 13 February 2018. Review by Brianna McClean)

The audience was at capacity at Pizza Express Live, as saxophonist and flautist Tori Freestone celebrated her birthday in style with an evening of mellow jazz. Her soft-spoken and understated on-stage personality translates into music of a similar vein. The gig was in promotion of Tori’s new duo album, Criss-Cross, featuring Alcyona Mick on piano. Both these musicians, as well as members of Tori’s trio and special guests, performed with refreshing gracefulness.

The first part of the evening saw Tori Freestone and Alcyona Mick on stage together, showcasing their new album. The set included mostly self-composed pieces which while melodically interesting, were perhaps at times a little too cautious and mild. However during moments where the pace and vigour picked up, the strength of Tori and Alcyona’s partnership was clear. Tori’s precise technical ability was clear on both the flute and saxophone. Alcyona is a sensitive pianist, both responding well to Tori and carrying solos with ease. The duo invited the vocalist who features on their new album, Brigitte Beraha, on stage for a few track tracks. The instant vivacity and interest contributed by this addition highlighted the issue so many duos face – a lack of texture and range. The breathy soprano vocals were a welcome layer and revealed a certain feminine character present in the duo’s album. The final piece played by the duo was their title track, Criss-Cross, by Thelonious Monk. It was in this finale which the potential of this duo was evident – watching them loosen up and enjoy this light-hearted tune was a delight.

Tori’s trio, with drummer Tim Giles and bassist Dave Manington, featured in the second half of the evening. Their bright tone and tight rhythms saw much more head-nodding and toe-tapping from the audience than the duo’s performance. Tori’s easy-going nature still shone through the trio’s set, perhaps quieting some of the tension and energy in the pieces. The trio are all accomplished musicians and performers; they carried more rhythmically complicated pieces without hesitation. The group have released two albums, In the Chop House (2014) and El Barranco (2017). Like the performance last night, both records are marked by apt musicality and a cheerful disposition.

LINK: Tori Freestone’s website 
New CD Criss Cross at Whirlwind Recordings

Categories: miscellaneous

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