Thursday, July 31, 2008

Frankly Mr Funkly - Manchester Jazz Festival day 6

We were awaken with the mighty funk of the MK-Ultras on the Wednesday morning back in St Anns Square. I've known the guitar player Nick Mellor for a few years now but for some reason this is the first time I've managed to see him play. A great slurry bluesy feel he has too reminiscent of Larry Carlton and John Scofield as outlined on a tasty version of Scofield's 'Do Like Eddie'. Much of the material had a decidedly New Orleans Meters thing going on and I quite enjoyed hearing some no nonsense grooving in the context of the jazz festival. Jonas Backman as always was great on drums and suited this style of playing perfectly. Not surprising as it turns out, as Nick informed me that the funk groove thing is where Mr Backman's true heart lies. Sound and solid stuff too from Chris Cliff on the bass and Nick Steed on the keys and vocals. As slightly odd choice for first act of the day but good stuff nontheless.

It was great to see 'Drumcake' leader and Manchester ex-pat Aaron Liddard back in the city. I've played with Aaron at a few jams going back a few years now down at the Band on the Wall and Arch Bar - both venues sadly closed at the moment though the Band on the Wall should be reopening at some point. This was another intriguing sounding prospect, the band having the two drummers Marc Parnell and Myke Wilson at either side of the stage in victoria sandwich drum cake formation. The cake filling consisted of the cream and fruit of Aaron on sax, Scott Bayliss on trumpet and keys, Stuart McCallum on guitar and Jon Thorne on bass. As promised in the program the set was largely a hard-edged groove based affair with some complex and witty tunes. I think it's fair to say this was a fun outfit with the material not meant to be taken too seriously.

They more or less got away with it but I sensed the outfit had probably had few (if indeed any) rehearsal and it did show in the scrappy delivery. At times the grooves locked and clicked and the music picked up nicely but all too often the momentum was squandered. The intentionally incongruous combination of a super fast drum and bass groove dramatically switching to classic swing and back was knowingly amus(o)ing enough but ultimately dissatisfying. 'Mayhem', the last tune was another complex angular workout that stumbled to halt in confusion. An unfortunate way to end a set that did have some high points.

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