Liverpool International Jazz festival
(Capstone Theatre, Liverpool. 29 February- 1 March 2020. Days 3 and 4 of the 4-day festival. Round-up by Peter Slavid)
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The Liverpool Jazz Festival has done that rare thing and managed to put together an exciting programme with innovative music and nonetheless attracts a good audience. I was there for the Festival’s third and fourth days, the Saturday and Sunday, but the interesting and unusual programming choices I witnessed do really make this festival stand out.
Saturday was not a day for the faint-hearted. Aficionados of smooth or gentle jazz will have done better to look away, but if you like jazz that gets in your face this was a full day of it.
- First up was the astonishing Sarathy Korwar. He’s one of those drummer/percussionists who seems to play incredibly loud and fast without appearing to move much, then he can double the pace without breaking sweat. His fine trio had Chris Williams on Alto and Al McSween on Keyboards, with a fair amount of electronic enhancement all round as this genuine power trio pushed out some heavy beats, Indian rhythms and blistering solos. The programme was supported by Milapfest, the Indian Arts Development charity. Added to the trio was the voice of poet and playwright Zia Ahmed, reciting words with a strong political message (all the musicians wore “fly immigrants” T-shirts), although sometimes the words didn’t escape the battering music behind them.
- The evening concert started with the synth heavy electronica of Leeds band Beyond Albedo. Ben Gaunt (synths); Saz Heneghan (drum kit + drum machine); Lara Jones (saxophones + effects); Tim Knowles (guitar + bass). They push out a stream of sound that sometimes overwhelmed the individuals, and may have been better suited to a club than a theatre.
- However, a theatre is unquestionably the right place for the final act, the Belgian band Blow 3.0. There’s a long tradition of theatrical performance jazz in the Benelux countries dating back from Willem Breuker through to Flat Earth Society, and Blow 3.0 are very much in that tradition. This trio of two tenors and a drummer are dressed all in black wearing white masks covering their faces. They remain anonymous throughout, they bounce around the stage playing a hard driving funky music. Typically the one on the left sets up a repetitive driving riff over which the one on the right will improvise a melody or a wailing solo. Behind all this the drums and drum machine of the one at the back pushes the sound louder and faster. The music is not particularly complex, but it’s hugely entertaining and forces feet to tap and hands to clap throughout the audience.
Sunday was saxophone day. A whole day of workshops, trade stands and lots of enthusiastic amateurs and professionals. In the theatre the day started with the latest performance in the album launch tour of Moonmot. Their excellent album was reviewed HERE The live performance took a couple of numbers to get going but then settled into an enthralling mix of composition and improvisation.
- The second band in the afternoon was the Martin Archer Anthropology Band. (Martin Archer – saxophones; Charlotte Keeffe – trumpet; Chris Sharkey – guitar; Anton Hunter – guitar; Orphy Robinson – vibraphone; Pat Thomas – keyboards; Dave Sturt – bass guitar; Peter Fairclough – drums)
An outstanding collection of improvisers with a programme from their double album that is inspired by, but definitely not copied from electric Miles. In fact, if it’s not sacrilege, I’d say it’s better, it’s a 21st Century version. It might be how Miles would have sounded if his collaboration with Jimmy Hendrix and Gil Evans had come about. Keefe is a real find, and when Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas started feeding off each other the audience erupted.
- The evening concert featured a fine local band Blind Monk Theory (Martin Smith – trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Whittaker – tenor saxophone; Hugo Harrison – double bass; Johnny Hunter – drums)
Their chordless sound was more influenced by Ornette Coleman than by Monk but very well done. Their recent addition of Smith makes this a fine quartet.
- The festival concluded with the Tony Kofi Quartet (Tony Kofi- Alto Saxophone; Byron Wallen – Trumpet; Larry Bartley – Double Bass; Rod Youngs – Drums)
This is an all star quartet which reminded us all that Ornette Coleman was more than just a pioneer of free jazz. As a composer he produced some of the most memorable melodies of the modern jazz era and his early quartet with this same line up was undoubtedly a key influence on everything that has come since.
Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on several internet stations including mixcloud.com/ukjazz
Categories: Live reviews