Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Folk, Funk, and a Firestorm - Manchester Jazz Festival Day Two

Magic Hat Ensemble, Glazz, Tony Woods Project, Huw Jacob, Liane Carroll Trio. Festival Pavilion, Albert Square, Manchester. Saturday 24th July 2010

What can you say about the Magic Hat Ensemble? Always good. Always fast. Always lots of tempo changes. It's straight ahead boppy stuff, if a little twisted and mangled, all delivered with panache and wit. Maybe a tad scrappy here and there, but all very charming and most enjoyable. Good start.

Glazz, a trio from Spain were for the most part a rock funk thing, overlaid with lots of overdriven blues from the guitar of Jose Manuel Recacha. There were fewer prog rock sounds in their than their influences might have suggested, though I heard a few Pink Floyd quotes on one tune in particular.

The most unusual and interesting part of their sound came from the addition of flamenco dancer Lucia Ruibal, sister of the drummer Javier. The sound engineers had somehow managed to amplify the stage so you could hear Lucia's complex flamenco foot tap rhythms clearly set against Javier's steady grooves. The set in many ways could have done with a bit more of this, as Lucia only came on for two songs. Though I prefer not to label things, I'd say the main 'jazziness' came via an homage to King Crimson called 'Stressreo', the metrical figures clearly referencing Crimson's 'Discipine' era. Glazz are not entirely my thing, but they have a strong sound nonetheless.

Returning to jazz festival after a three year break, the Tony Woods Project delivered a fine fettle of folky, free and funky sounds, perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon. You get lots of even precise lines delivered in what you might called a folk type rhythm, but the harmony is always much deeper, albeit referencing classic modal folk sounds. The precision interplay on the tune heads between Tony Woods on sax and Mike Outram on guitar was frequently delightful.

'Prayer', the final track, was a warming highlight complete with ambient textures and some warm bowed vibes from Rob Millett. The track mutated from it's homely beginning into bluesy groove, enhanced by some fade-in echo feedback from Outram, before he dug in proper with some tasty mute picked bends.

The evening session opened with a tuneful set of tunes from Huw Jacob and his band. This is all about the songwriting and the lyrics, with some well crafted sequences and lush harmony vocals nodding to the classic pop of Squeeze and the Beatles. The sound was especially ear-catching when it opened up enough to let Jamie Safiruddin's sweet and fresh piano playing come through. Some great tunes here for sure.

I hadn't actually heard or seen much about the Lianne Carroll Trio before tonight if I'm honest, and I wasn't at all prepared for the firestorm of a performance we got. Suffice to say, they totally stormed it. The massive energy kick pushed out from the stage by Carroll and the band from the very first note was worth a good many strong coffees (if not something stronger). The jury is still out for me on whether some musicians have 'natural' talent, but when you see someone such as Carroll who can perform so well and so effortlessly, I do wonder. The material is what you might call mainstream, but it's delivered with such vigour and joy, you have to be something of a sour old goat to not raise a smile. A fantastic upbeat ending to a great opening Saturday night.

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