Live reviews

Ivo Neame Septet at Pizza Express Holborn (EFG LJF 2021)

Ivo Neame Septet

(Pizza Express Holborn – 15 November 2021. EFG LJF. Review by Peter Slavid)

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Ivo Neame. photo credit Hreinn Gudlaugsson / Creative Commons

There’s something about the sound of a seven-piece band in an intimate venue like the Pizza Express that gives you all the punch of a big band, but still lets all the individual instruments come through clearly. That was certainly the case here with Ivo Neame’s band.

Neame made his name as a key band member in Phronesis and with Marius Neset and others, but more recently he has come much more to the fore as both pianist and composer.

Some of the music here can be heard on his new album from Whirlwind called “Glimpses of Truth” Released 25 November), but with a different and bigger band. All the music was composed by Neame with the exception of an interesting version of Duke Ellington’s “Melancholia”.

This is a band full of quality musicians, and the four front-line horns bring different styles to music while the arrangements create all sorts of interesting colours and combinations, sometimes mellow, sometimes dissonant. The music is rhythmically complex and intricate but somehow comes across as accessible and coherent. Tom Farmer on bass and James Maddren on drums provide a solid underpinning with Maddren not afraid to throw in a few bombs to keep the soloists on their toes.

Rachel Cohen on Alto is perhaps the most lyrical of the horns, contributing a beautiful solo on Ellington’s “Melancholia”. In contrast George Crowley on Tenor gets more powerful as the evening wears on and is absolutely storming it by the final number. Kieran Mcleod takes a delicious trombone solo on Broken Brains, probably the prettiest tune in the set. Byron Wallen on trumpet takes a couple of excellent solos, but also he often provides the sharper note that cuts through the gentler harmonies.

Behind and around all this is Ivo Neame’s piano. Sometimes he’ll start a number with solo piano before the band come in, at others he’ll take a powerful and intricate solo, dominating in front of the horns.

The first half concluded with Neame’s “Dance of the Lizard People”, a tune nominated for the Ivor Novello Composers Award, something Neame forgot to mention, but which Byron Wallen announced to massive applause. The show finished with another strong melody “Laika” which was on Neame’s Quartet album “Moksha”. It featured a powerful solo from George Crowley and that rounded the evening off nicely.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on and various internet stations

LINK: Glimpses of Truth at UK Distributor Proper

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