Live reviews

Moor Mother + Irreversible Entanglements (2021 EFG LJF)

Moor Mother at the South Bank and Irreversible Entanglements at Kings Place

(EFG London Jazz Festival.  12/ 13 November 2021. Live review by Tony Dudley-Evans)
(Photos are from the Kings Place show)

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Moor Mother at Kings Place. Photo copyright Monika S. Jakubowska

Two appearances by Camae Ayewa, usually known as Moor Mother, one as solo artist in a co-promotion by the Pitchfork Festival and the London Jazz Festival, and one as co-leader of the band Irreversible Entanglements were major events in the first weekend of the jazz festival.

In the Pitchfork Festival on the Friday Moor Mother was appearing in a double bill with Black Midi.  She was not strictly solo as she was joined by saxophonist Keir Neuringer, her colleague in Irreversible Entanglements.  Her set was advertised as an opening DJ set, but it was, in fact, much more than that, and was a powerful performance that presented a maelstrom of vocal and electronic sounds.  Neuringer contributed  a series of short phrases which fed into the overall mix.

Aquiles Navarro and Keir Neuringer. Photo copyright Monika S. Jakubowska

Moor Mother is a charismatic performer with a strong and resonant voice, and her set here was a dense and occasionally harsh sounding blend of voice, electronics and loops with a touch of Neuringer’s saxophone in there somewhere.  It was all very fast moving, alternating between more abstract passages and more groove driven parts.  It was an exhilarating 50 minute performance, but it was noticeable that some audience members seemed to drift away mentally during the passages of abstraction.

Moor Mother and Irreversible Entanglements at Kings Place. Photo copyright Monika S. Jakubowska

Moor Mother is co-leader with Neuringer of Irreversible Entanglements, and their set in Hall 1 at Kings Place on the Saturday was a group performance rather than one by a vocalist with accompanying band.  They played an intense 75 minute straight through set requiring a lot of concentration on the part of the listeners, but an experience clearly bought into by the large audience given the standing ovation at the end of the set.  Straight through playing is a welcome feature of much free jazz and improvised music; here the main feature of the set was the unfolding interaction between Moor Mother’s vocals and the rest of the band.  Moor Mother presents short phrases which she repeats four or more times thereby building up the tension and the drama.  These are sometimes isolated phrases such as I was taken to see Trane, or Open the gates, or a series of phrases that contribute to an overall narrative.  Sometimes the words come across clearly, at others they blend in with the sound of the band. The band itself responds equally dramatically, either in trumpet or saxophone solos, or together in a kind of joyful anthemic free playing.  On other occasions Neuringer and trumpeter Aquiles Navarro switch to keys to create a more abstract sound.  Luke Stewart on double bass and Tchaser Holmes create a strong pulse throughout.  At times they were reminiscent of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, especially in the opening passage where Neuringer and Navarro played on whistles.

Moor Mother and Irreversible Entanglements backstage at Kings Place. Photo copyright Monika S. Jakubowska

Irreversible Entanglements were originally formed for a Musicians Against Police Brutality rally, and their music has a clear social focus. Whether that came across in Hall 1 at Kings Place is doubtful, but they certainly received a strong and positive response from the audience at the end of the set.

LINK: The Kings Place Jazz Programme

Geoff Winston’s review of Moor Mother/ IE at Cafe Oto in 2018

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