Live review

Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science Community; Experiments in London at Kings Place (2019 EFG LJF)

Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science Community; Experiments in London
(Kings Place, EFG London Jazz Festival, 16 November 2019. Review by Leah Williams.)

Legendary drummer, composer and producer Terri Lyne Carrington is this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival artist-in-residence. With her new band Social Science Community, she kicked off a weekend takeover at Kings Place with two gigs: the first playing music from her new album, Waiting Game; next up, she invited a host of young UK talents for a curated gig that was simply dripping in contemporary coolness.

Terri Lyne Carrington at Kings Place (Photo © Paul Wood/Jazz Images)

Terri described the Social Science project as being “born from a need to express the emotions and thoughts about where we are socially, historically, politically, and spiritually. This alternative jazz band reflects a contemporary/post-modern view on music”. And bringing the various strengths and sounds of these special, young guest artists to the project only strengthened and amplified this. 

First to join the line-up was saxophonist Soweto Kinch, who opened the gig with his tune The Engine Drivers. It began with a punchy, rhythmic, interweaving dialogue between him and second saxophonist Martin Guerrin showcasing an incredible versatility and a raw edginess. As the band joined in, it was immediately clear this would be no ordinary evening.

Cellist and singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson was the next addition, bringing her own unique style blending spoken word, vocals and both plucked and bowed cello to the mix. Carrington thanked “the power of YouTube” for introducing her to Witter-Johnson’s music, the empowering social messaging of which lines up nicely with her own.

Trumpeter Emma-Jean Thackray and rapper Truemendous were the final two to join the stellar line-up. For such a young artist, Truemendous has incredible stage presence and even with so many wonderful musicians up there, she really shone through. Thought-provoking lyrics were delivered with style and creativity, elevating the already groove-filled sound of the band. Emma-Jean Thackray came more into her own as the night went on, although it still felt as though she was holding back somewhat, perhaps not as comfortable within this improvised band as the others, and we were only treated to her full potential during a couple of welcome moments.

As each guest took centre stage, the collective effectively developed around their particular style, but it never felt disjointed. This was in no small part down to the recognisable mastery and power of Carrigan’s playing, which never failed to cut through. Although somewhat hidden away behind her kit, there was no doubting she was in the driving seat at all times, keeping the tight grooves and infectious funk moving forwards throughout. 

The standout moments were when everyone came together. You’d never guess this was such a newly formed collective. Although there was undeniably a freshness to the playing with everyone finding their place in this combination of people and instruments, this only made it all the more exciting. And it just really worked. There was a cohesiveness that came from a shared passion for the music and outstanding talent – and there’s always something extra special about witnessing this type of one-off music making.

The only thing that would have made it better was a bit more of a highlight on the main woman herself. Apart from a short rhythmic duo from her and Morgan Guerrin – this time joining Carrington on drums – there were no real solos to speak of. But this is only further testament to Carrington’s easy confidence and skill, clearly not needing to take the spotlight in order to still dominate the stage.

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