Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mysterious Traveller in a Stolen Caravan

Another one of those special big little gigs last night the 29th January down at the Carlton Club as part of the EXR jazz nights series. A last minute word of mouth text alerted me to what promised to be a good one with the Cinematic Orchestra's Luke Flowers on drums, ex-Cinematics John Ellis on piano and the Oedipal Jon Thorne on double bass. It was the first time I've managed to make it down to the Carlton Club and I was immediately taken with it's somewhat jaded boho vibe.

I presume due to the last minuteness it turned out to be a small affair. This made for an intensely personal and intimate gig in ours and a small quota of the MCR jazz community's honour (Whackabas' Jonas Backman and Gavin Barras joined us at the front table). Everyone was very quiet and one could almost hear the shuffling of Luke's denim in time with his kick drum swagger. I was recently enlightened to Luke's alternative monicker of 'Mr Tickle' which I have to say does seem very suitable given his lithe style and extensive reach.

The set opened with a classic sounding untitled song for a mysterious person by John Ellis. Jon Thorne announced a song he'd written for Mr Flowers called 'Cool Hand Luke' that fittingly featured some graceful and potent playing from the said man. John Ellis gave a great blues stomper rendition of 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' with some mighty singing from himself. Just before the end of the first set Jon Thorne shared with us that his main means of transport, a VW caravan had been stolen at 11.20pm the night before, adding an ironic twist to a forceful and fast version of 'Caravan'. The second set ended with a touchingly vulnerable rendition of Richard Iles' 'Old Friends' also sung by John with really quite moving words from guitarist Mike Walker.

This was kind of what it's all about really. Memorable.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Praise the Lord

A tip for what should be a good one this Wednesday 30th January at Matt and Phreds. I caught The Blessing a couple of weeks ago at The Bell in Bath and I was mightily impressed. They were on home turf and had a great crowd down that made for a brilliant atmosphere. Quite Polar Bear'ish, but with distinctly more funky style drums and bass than those influential Londoners. Comprising players favoured by Portishead and Robert Plant to name just two, they whipped a storm that I hope makes it up to Manchester this week. Bring your anoraks.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Long, the Tall and the Shorter of it

It's been far too long since I've posted here so apologies. It's one man operation so it can be tricky to keep it moving along. A combination of a starting a new job, crimbo and illness have kept me away though I have sneaked out from time to time.

I swept the cobwebs out on Saturday the 5th of January with a visit to Liverpool to check out Wayne Shorter playing at the grand, if somewhat old fashioned feeling Liverpool Philharmonic Hall as part of the Fresh Festival. I'd hadn't realised until entering the hall and wondering if I was at the wrong concert that he was playing with the full size Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and not just a quartet as I was expecting. Wayne looked stately all in black and cut an elegant if modest figure in amongst the orchestra. He was a man of few words, only communicating once with the audience in a somewhat enigmatic manner, but there was no feeling distance despite this and the atmosphere was warm.

Not surprisingly given the set-up, the tunes were heavily arranged pieces and much of the time sounding very classical. I wasn't familiar with the material but it worked really well, particularly the second track, also appreciated by my Liverpool based mate, the kinetic Hannah Peel who came along to the gig with me. In many ways the focus wasn't on Wayne or the quartet but the orchestra and the overall compositions. Wayne's short improvisations were quite uncommitted and he seemed more focussed on taking in the overall impact of his orchestrations. This lack was made up for by the other members of the quartet, drummer Brian Blade, John Patitucci on double bass and Danilo Perez on piano, all playing with force and vigour.

An appropriately 'short' set at one hour plus an encore but a good one.