Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spirit, Form and Frolics - Manchester Jazz Festival day 3

I've never quite managed to get a seat for a Sunday at the festival in the Bridgewater Hall Foyer in previous years so I made it down a good half hour early and still only just managed to get one. It's great to see so much support. As the festival Director Steve Mead said in his introduction to the first band, there was a risk of ODing on jazz today but I figured I'd risk it anyway.

First up was the Gareth Roberts Quintet from Cardiff. Some cool Horace Silvery grooves were mixed with takes on traditional Welsh folksongs amusingly introduced by cheeky chappy trombone playing band leader Gareth. The rhythm partnership of brothers Chris and Mark O'Connor worked really well, the drummer Mark having a pleasing lazy feel exemplifed on the groovy (man) 'Mop Dancing'. The improvisations from Gareth, trumpet player Gethin and piano player Paul were a tad rough at the edges but were made up for by the good feeling the boys were getting across and the strength in the tunes.

The Alcyona Mick Quintet were a different proposition entirely. The material was fast and fullsome from the off. Alcyona is a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire and has very impressive technique as do all the players in this group. Most of the tunes were both rhythmically and harmonically complex and frequently delivered at quite a pace too. The music was nevertheless still exciting and accessible and didn't sound academic as can be the danger when students have almost too much technique and knowledge.

By many accounts Free Spirits were the act people to check out in the foyer today and it sounded very promising as I'm quite partial to a bit of indo-jazz as readers of this blog may have spotted. I'm told sitar player Dharambir Singh and tabla player Bhupinder Singh Chaggar are leaders in their field on their respective instruments. I have to confess however that this set left me cold. To my ears the sitar playing was a little unconvincing and lacked ideas, and I didn't get a whole lot from the bass or tablas either. I felt it was left to Lewis Watson on saxophones to give the music a bit more depth and variety and he was doing more interesting stuff harmonically for me at least but the backing only allowed him to go so far.

After a couple of hours break we were in to the double bill of La Gran Descarga and Roberta Fonseca in the Bridgewater main hall. I have a bit of a love hate realtionship with latin jazz so I wasn't sure how I'd take to the evening performances but I was happy to go with an open mind. I'm really glad I did as well as La Gran Descarga put in a great performance and went down really well. This is a big 22 piece band and did they a good job of filling the stage and hall. They cooked up a tasty rhythmic brew with some great horn riffs arrangements from double bass player Matt Owens, some good solos all round with a particularly good solo spot from Neil Yates. Some gusty singing from Kirsty Almeida rounded the whole thing off nicely. Some of the audience were itching to get on their feet and a fair few didn't need asking twice when invited by Kirsty for the last song. Shame they couldn't have asked sooner. A standing ovation from the entire hall made it clear this had been a fab gig. It must be good also for Manchester jazz and the festival. I hope the Bridgewater Hall promoters took note.

Roberta and his group had quite a tough act following the energy and good feeling set up by La Gran Descarga. They did a good job of it on the whole and there was lovely high energy playing but I think I was pretty spent by then. It didn't really sustain it's interest for me for the whole set though there were some great tunes in there and they're clearly a good bunch of players. I think was a bit jazzed out so I need to reserve judgement until I get a chance to listen to some more material.

Phew, so that was Sunday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Free spirits were amazing...The tunes were different from all the other sets and the sound was incredible. The rhythmical ideas were intricate and great development in the solo's. The reviewer was definately watching another gig as this set was so well recieved!!! I went to watch them again and they were even better.