Live review

Valentina Magaletti solo, and duo with Susumu Mukai at Cafe Oto

Valentina Magaletti solo, and duo with Susumu Mukai
(Cafe Oto, 25 October 2020; review and photo and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Valentina Magaletti’s percussion set-up at Cafe Oto. Photo by Geoff Winston

It was rather wonderful to be able to experience high quality, adventurous live performance at Cafe Oto once again – albeit with well-spaced tables, table service, facemasks and a capacity, sold-out audience of about 30 devotees – plus an unlimited online audience for the livestream. But, what the hell, it was happening, and it had lost none of that special Cafe Oto ambience.

Valentina Magaletti, London-based percussionist and composer, delivered a dynamic solo set which combined her carefully wrought electronic soundscape with percussion explorations that ranged from tightly focussed passages bringing out fine sonic detail to near straight-down-the-line jazz drum solo episodes drawing on the routes opened up by the ground-breaking statements of Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes.

The scene was set with insistent industrial hums and rumbling countered by clean, melodic strikes on vibraphone, lightly shimmering touches on cymbals, and the clicking of delicate patterns played on the outer edges of the drum kit. Gradually the range was expanded to embrace bass drums, flighty chimes, snare and toms. As the electronic backdrop became a more aggressive presence, light rolls, riffing and the intentionality of the beat emerged.

Magaletti stroked surfaces with brushes and sticks, adopted soft mallets to underscore the lighter load and large mallets to facilitate intense metallic strikes and rushes on gongs. When the electronics supplied unsettling sharp screeches the drumming got tough and the ensuing jazz breaks were everything you might want to hear in a drum solo.
Altogether a really satisfying and impressive solo set.

Valentina Magaletti at Cafe Oto. Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

The duo set saw more electronics, this time from bassist Susumu Mukai, who tapped rhythms with fingers and dipped in to the Sun Ra blooping soundtrack before they both delved in to a pulsing structure which had something of the spirit of Pink Floyd’s Set the Controls to the Heart of the Sun, with Magaletti’s emphatic drumming complementing the bass lines – and both musicians wore black facemasks on stage, it should be noted.

This set the scene for an initially constrained, but regular live programme from Cafe Oto, with Alexander Hawkins solo next in line!

Categories: Live review

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