Live review

‘Sharp Little Bones with Tony Kofi Volumes I & II’ (album launch at Peggy’s Skylight) 

Sharp Little Bones with Tony Kofi, Volumes I & II album launch

(Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham. 11 May 2023. Review by Jeanie Barton)

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Double disk release by Ubuntu Music UBUO138 

Sharp Little Bones: Andrew Wood, Tony Kofi, Simon Paterson, Paul Deats. Photo credit: Martin Makowski

This night was a pleasure to behold and brought together friends from all corners of University of Nottingham music lecturer, writer and performer Simon Paterson’s life. Paterson is double bassist in the house band of popular, Parliamentary Award-winning Nottingham jazz venue Peggy’s Skylight, alongside Paul Deats on keys and Andrew Wood on drums. He came up with the concept for Sharp Little Bones about three years ago, and the organic growth of this band and project has been nurtured by their close relationship playing together at the venue. Paterson has written all the compositions on this new release but there has been obvious input from the whole ensemble, which since last year has also featured Tony Kofi on sax.

As the gig began, the packed room hushed and they launched into the first funky number ‘Ury Bop’ in 7/8, a catchy melody named after an expression in an Indian folk tale ‘The Old Woman and the Pumpkin’. The music and sound immediately felt unique with Deats on Fender Rhodes and Korg Prologue synth, which simultaneously sounds both futuristic and retro. 

‘Chromatose’ is a zen-like number, again with unusual rhythmic form, focusing harmonically on 4ths with chromatic shifts – it was rather haunting. ‘Layli’s Lullaby’ begins with a bass and sax unison intro in 7/4. Layli is Simon’s daughter who, like my son, must have slumbered most soundly when jazz was pumping, given how the piece starts small but builds to a drum breakout by Andrew Wood, aka Woody. 

‘Hiddenness’ has a sinister almost aggressive hook opening that dissipates into an arhythmic free drum solo. This in turn dissolves to a delicate unison feature with the horror-edged hook suddenly interjecting – it really keeps the listener on their toes! Eventually the number morphs into a big swinger of a song with Kofi dropping in ‘the quickest way to Harlem’ line from ‘Take the A Train’. 

‘Downfall’ is a ballad featuring Paterson harmonising on his electric bass and doing an extensive solo. Deats is on synth, sounding both ethereal and space age; the whole composition gives a feeling of being weightless. ‘Stranger Danger’ reminded me a bit of Charlie Parker’s ‘Now’s the Time’, featuring chromatic lifts and bebop stops plus a Bo ba bo ba! Bembé rhythm, which interrupts the hard swing – great fun. 

In the second set, ‘Roo’s Blues’ is named after Paterson’s eldest boy Rubin who, aged 10, is well into his jazz and already jamming at Peggy’s ‘Nottingham Jazz Jam’ on alto sax and keys. It reminded me of Mancini’s ‘The Pink Panther’ with a kind of “detective vibe”. It’s a nod to his favourites Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins. 

‘Troll Stroll’ has a boogaloo rhythm like ‘Beat Goes On’ but with a twist. There’s certainly a lot of humour in Paterson’s writing and the band’s performance – the audience had a real chuckle. 

‘Mackerel Sky’ is a funky blues with a cyclic syncopated head played in unison. The form is passed around and Paterson made a nice rock and roll lick during his solo – showing his diversity of style. Kofi employed circular breathing in the most intense moment that got the crowd whooping. It ended with an unexpectedly ecclesiastical ending by Deats on the Rhodes. 

‘Sorceress’ featured Deats, this time on the grand piano, for an intro reminiscent of romantic classics and Gershwin. This gave way to an electric bass pulse with a drone/peddle followed by a spacious melody that built in complexity for a modal, spiritual vibe. It ended as it began, on the grand. 

The audience demanded more, so they did an encore of ‘Trailblazing’ where suspended bass harmonics supported the tenor melody.

These two albums were recorded in just one 9-hour session at Metronome in the summer of 2022. With this obviously successful venue full to the brim and producing new music/collaborations like this, it’s devastating to think it is currently under threat of demolition. Please keep an eye out for fundraising and petition updates on the venue’s website.

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