Friday, November 28, 2008

Frøy Aagre, Herbie Remixed and Drugstore Cowboy - London Jazz Festival days 2 & 3

Frøy Aagre, Ray's Jazz at Foyles, Saturday 15th November 2008.

I just made it to Ray's Jazz Cafe in time to catch the nordic sounds of the Frøy Aagre acoustic quartet, for a three track 26 minute taster, partly hosted to entice us to her gig at the Spice of Life with Kenny Wheeler. The first track, 'Long Distance', began with a traditional um-pah rhythm before shifting into a reflective and quite sparse folk conclusion. The mysterious arpeggiated piccolo introduction to second track, 'Cycle of Silence', had a distinct pensive and pleasing Garbarekesque ethereal quality. Industrial machine rhythm emulating piece, 'Factory', ended a charming, if frustrating, short set. As keen as I was to see the Spice of Life gig, it wasn't to be. A definite one check out again.

Herbie Remixed, Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre, Saturday 15th November 2008.

Over then to the Southbank for 'Herbie Remixed', an afternoon of interpretations of Herbie Hancock tunes. The programme comprised of a series of up and coming young acts including 'Jazz Alive', 'Super Best Friends', Ping Lee's trio, 'Ran', and Manchester's own 'Riot Jazz'. It was a mixed bag for sure, with 'Ran' delivering a fifteen minute improvised funk groove that was especially lacking in ideas. Ten piece brass band, 'Riot Jazz', put in the most convincing performance, with some tight and well written arrangements including a convincing version of 'Chameleon', despite being a little rough at the edges themselves. Good efforts on the whole, but we await the finished products.

Drugstore Cowboy, Spice of Life, Leicester Square, Sunday 16th November 2008.

Classic Blue Note sounding stuff this, delivered with panache and buckets of energy. Branden Allen's 'Drugstore Cowboy' whipped up a veritable storm in the basement of the Spice of Life pub, the becoming atmosphere of which corrected our vision to the black and white of a fifties jazz record cover. The appropriately named opening track, 'Open Sesame', locked things into gear instantaneously, demonstrating a well rehearsed set by a group of players who clearly love playing. Suit, polo neck and plimsolled sax player Allen was on the mark throughout, and a real joy to listen to. Trumpet player, Quentin Collins matched Allen the whole way with his gritty bop lines. On 'The Misadventures of Duck Peter', Allen's already high intensity levels racked up an extra few degrees, the raised energy levels resulting in Allen shuffling around the small stage area with a dandyish quivering swagger.

The second set continued apace, keyboard player Ross Stanley's Hammond Organ placing the walking bass lines forcefully. Enzio Cirelli was quite something on the drums, his relaxed, but always driving swing feel matching the momentum of the horn players perfectly. Allen described the last tune, 'Unfinished Sympathy' as anthemic. I'm not sure I could quite tell why, as it's style seemed as much in the classic swinging jazz blues vein as much of the rest of the set, but with such a rivetting performance, no one was arguing. Compositionally, Drugstore Cowboy aren't tearing down any boundaries, but who cares when they do what they do so well?

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