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Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music: Day 3 Report

Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music

(Lit & Phil, Newcastle. Day 3: Saturday 1 October. Festival report by Peter Slavid)

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Laura Cole. Photo copyright Ken Drew

A gig by Black Top is always a special event. That’s partly because this duo of Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas don’t appear often enough, and partly because of their selection of special guests. This third member is always different, and over the years has featured some outstanding musicians. Closing Day 3 of the festival they continued that approach with their guest, local composer and DJ Mariam Rezaei.

It’s hard to describe this music, and often it was difficult to decide who was contributing what. It’s probably best to describe the set-up.

On the left was Pat Thomas. He was seated at a grand piano, but also had a table with a small electronic keyboard, a laptop, and a few other devices. On the right was Orphy Robinson with his vibrasynth, an electronic device that can sound just like a vibraphone, but can also change the sound electronically and bend the notes. He also had a small keyboard set up with samples, a laptop and various pedals

In the centre was Mariam Rezaei. With her two DJ turntables.

Thomas would sometimes offer pulsating chords on the piano, sometimes short electronic stabs on the keyboard and sometimes sharp drum-like sounds from another device, sometimes all at the same time. Robinson sometimes played conventional vibes, sometimes bent those notes, often contributed samples, sometimes spoken word, sometimes strange sounds.

In the centre, linking all this was the frenetic turntable DJ sounds from Rezai. moving sliders, twiddling knobs, pushing turntables and creating a pulsating constantly changing background sound to complement the other two.

The overall effect of this was mesmerising. Powerful and dramatic at times, funky at others, but always compelling listening and watching.

Day 3 had started with the telepathic improvising duo of Alexander Hawkins (piano) and Nicole Mitchell (flutes). Both had appeared earlier in the festival in different environments (see link below to review by AJ Dehany), and the concert was recorded by Radio 3, so keep an eye out for it’s appearance on Freeness – you won’t regret it!

The day also saw a very theatrical solo cello performance from Daniel Levin and a special version of the Beck Hunters with John Pope and Laura Cole added to the improvising trio of Mick Beck and the Hunter brothers.

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

Black Top with Mariam Rezaei are appearing at the Vortex Jazz Club on 19 November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival

LINK: AJ Dehany’s review of Friday

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