Mark Kavuma and The Banger Factory
Dome Stage, Snape Maltings, 29 August 2022. Live review by John Arnett)
This was the last in an imaginative and diverse programme of free open air concerts throughout August at Snape Maltings, Suffolk, on the visually striking geodesic Dome Stage, in the Summer at Snape series. Against the early evening backdrop of the River Alde and its marshes, it was a memorable event all round.
Opening number of the hour-long set was “Eluid”, taken from the band’s most recent (2021) album “Arashi No Ato”. A swinging and melodic fast bop tune, it immediately set a joyous, high energy tone with nicely contrasting solos from guitarist Artie Zaitz (dubbed, cryptically, “The Regulator”), followed by leader Mark Kavuma on trumpet and Mussinghi Brian Edwards on tenor sax.
Kavuma, it was good to observe, was a very mobile source of encouragement and motivation to his six fellow band members throughout the show. At one point he headed off into the crowd mid-tune to find the soundman, because one of the drummer’s cymbals had fallen over, returning to the stage without missing a beat.
Second piece, “Wayward’s Return” was a composition by tenorist Edwards and featured a captivating solo, full of melodic invention and thrilling twists and turns, by pianist Deschanel Gordon, winner of the 2020 BBC Young Musician award. It was also clear by now that the drumming of Jason Brown was a vital propellant to the whole sound – never too dominant, but always exciting, firing and crackling away with palpable energy and feeling for the music.
On the band’s second album “The Banger Factory”, the melody of Kavuma composition “Big Willie” is played on the vibes by David Mrakpor, and that instrument, alongside guitar, piano and sometimes Hammond organ, does lend a beautiful and distinctive tonal quality to the overall sound on the record which I found myself missing at times, in his absence. Even so, the tune was given a spirited uptempo workout here, including the very entertaining and virtuosic percussion and double bass spot towards the end.
The title track of the most recent album “Arashi No Ato”, which means “after the storm” in Japanese, was well placed towards the end of the set. The title is a reference to Haruki Murakami’s statement in “Kafka on the Shore”, resonant for these times, and featured on the sleeve notes – “when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in”. It begins with a slow, atmospheric piano solo and develops into a haunting ballad, with the trumpet taking the melody, over delicate guitar phrasing. There followed a calm, unhurried, flowing tenor solo by Edwards, with Kavuma then picking up the mood in his own solo, with deft changes of tempo. Alto saxophonist Theo Erskine contributed a searching, soaring solo of his own, leading into a duet with piano and finally an unaccompanied double bass solo by Jack Garside – nothing showy, but full of feeling and sonority. The piece felt like a real high point in a set that was certainly not short of them.