The band with no name: Deurloo/Zawadzki/Chisnall
(Ambleside Days Contemporary Jazz Festival, 31 August 2019. Review by Mike Collins)
The Ambleside Days festival has an enticing roster of nightly gigs with an impressive sprinkling of marquee names. Another feature of the festival however, is that most of the musicians are accommodated nearby, staying together, many for the whole weekend. It’s an arrangement to encourage a temporary musical community to spring up. The hope is, of course, that some magic will emerge as a consequence.
Small wonder then, that a gig billed as one-off between three musicians on a Saturday afternoon started with four and was five by the end. The programme had promised virtuosic harmonica player Hermine Deurloo who has been touring with the ‘Going Dutch’ scheme, singer and violinist Alice Zawadzki and pianist Les Chisnall. That line-up was enough to draw a sizeable crowd. When we got there, Mike Walker had joined and, later in the set, they added percussionist Asaf Sirkis.
What would this group of musicians choose to play? They found a hatful of pieces that seemed to assume an understanding of ‘less is more’, whilst having a quiet, zestful energy. They started with My Love and I, a Walker find, the melody heard on a film score and the piece arranged for a small group, that proved to be the perfect ground on which to meet. The simple arc of a melodic motif, harmonica and voice blending, stilled the room, Walker and Chisnall found the perfect balance between them, to etch harmony and sustain the rhythmic flow of an implied waltz. A Larry Golding piece, Benny’s Dream, followed. A similar rhythmic pulse, but with a more developed melody had Deurloo’s harmonica soaring evocatively, there was an expansiveness to the harmony as the accompaniment swelled, the Walker-Chisnall partnership delivering again and the whole piece feeling like a lung full of fresh air.
Zawadzski’s music bag provided other flavours. A swooning song from Argentinian compsoser Gustavo Santaolalla, Sueltate las Cintas; an original, Superior Virtue, offering a sliding, folk inflected, melodic line and a climatic ending as a steadily thickening and rich backing grew behind her doubled voice and violin; a setting of a Lorca poem that grooved with an even, pulsing figure from the guitar, and violin and harmonica locked together on reeling, swirling fills.
This was a first meeting and not everything gelled immediately, but there was no mistaking the chemistry at work, a collective feeling for the delicate but buoyant character of the music and the sparkle of magic as they found a way to play together. And so they concluded with Strange Meeting, a Bill Frisell tune. Asaf Sirkis had joined by this point and caressed a hand held drum to propel the tango-like pulse. A filigree melody, and Walker then spun out a series of darting, mazy runs constructing a delightful solo, passing the baton, leaving me, for one, wanting more. Piano, harmonica and violin followed, a quietly joyful dance around each other to end the set.
This was a delightful set. Emerging into a damp Lakeland afternoon, the world felt like a more harmonious place. The Ambleside Days formula had worked its magic.
Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman
The band with no name: Les Chisnall, Hermine Deurloo, Mike Walker, Alice Zawadzki and Asaf Sirkis (Photo: David Forman)