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Sunday at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 01/05/2016.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Sunday at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 01/05/2016.

Ian Mann on a day of richly varied music including performances by Shiver, Julian Arguelles, Meadow, Christian Scott, David Sanborn , Mulatu Astatke, Giovanni Guidi and Melt Yourself Down.

SUNDAY AT CHELTENHAM JAZZ FESTIVAL, 01/05/2016.

Photograph of Giovanni Guidi by Tim Dickeson


SHIVER, PARABOLA ARTS CENTRE

Shiver is a relatively new project featuring three musicians from the North of England in the shapes of Chris Sharkey (guitar), Andy Champion (electric bass) and Joost Hendrickx (drums). Given Sharkey’s involvement it’s tempting to think of Shiver as the direct descendants of the much missed trioVD,  which featured Sharkey alongside saxophonist Christophe de Bezenac and drummer Chris Bussey.

However Shiver’s music is substantially different. Whereas trioVD tended to perform in short, sharp ‘punk jazz’ bursts, often with a grunge like soft/loud dynamic Shiver prefer lengthy, shifting magnum opuses. Their music is much more about soundscaping with electronics playing a substantial part in the sonic process. It’s less obviously “in yer face” than trioVD and the sound levels at this mid-day performance at the PAC were considerably lower than at trioVD’s incendiary late night performance at the Pillar Room venue at the 2010 Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Not that Shiver lacks dynamism as their gripping performance was about to prove.

Playing a set of entirely new music Shiver commenced with a half hour opening segue of the tunes “Quickstep” and Bounce” beginning in impressionistic fashion with a sea of guitar washes above the rumble of Hendrickx’s mallets and Champion’s further manipulation of the sound via a floor mounted effects unit. Gradually the use of live looping, layering and sequencing saw the group’s sound mutating into something akin to contemporary dance music as Sharkey and his colleagues continued to develop a veritable wall of sound shored up by Hendrickx’s dynamic drumming. Elsewhere tribal sounding drums underpinned a Sharkey solo that sounded like Hank Marvin on very bad acid and there was plenty of the chunky math rock riffage that trioVD used to specialise in while the more ambient episodes were sometimes reminiscent of the soundscapes of Manchester based guitarist Stuart McCallum.

The shorter “Gum Takes Bat” began with a passage of solo guitar from Sharkey that saw him utilising his FX pedals to create layers of sound punctuated by electronic glitches before overlaying this with complex math rock riffing that eventually formed the spur for an impressive solo from Champion on his five string bass guitar. The piece concluded with a veritable riff fest that combined the sophistication of jazz with the power of heavy metal.

By the end of the second piece some fifty minutes had elapsed with this complex but compelling music making the time just seem to fly by. Unfortunately I had to leave at this juncture to move on to my next ticketed event at Cheltenham Town Hall. I was very reluctant to depart on but at least I’d got a handle on Shiver by then and found their combination of jazz, alt-rock and electronica both absorbing and exciting. The band is a worthy successor to trioVD and I look forward to catching up with them again sometime. Hopefully they will get to record a full length album before too long, the group’s début EP “Shiver 3” now being completely sold out. 

JULIAN ARGUELLES with the FRANKFURT RADIO BIG BAND, CHELTENHAM TOWN HALL

It was unfortunate that the Shiver gig overlapped this performance by saxophonist Julian Arguelles who was appearing in the company of the Frankfurt Radio Big Band plus guest performers Django Bates (piano, keyboards) and Steve Arguelles (drums, percussion). A fifteen minute gap between shows is normally slotted into the programme to allow concert goers to move between gigs but the early start for Arguelles and the FRBB was due to the fact that the musicians had to catch a flight back to Germany from Birmingham Airport later in the afternoon. This gig concluded a busy weekend for the members of the FRBB who had accompanied American vocalist Lizz Wright at the same venue the previous evening.

Arguelles has been a frequent collaborator with the FRBB and has recorded two albums with them beginning with “Momenta” an album of big band arrangements of the saxophonist’s original compositions recorded in 2008. In 2015 Arguelles and the Band released “Let It Be Told”, an album featuring Arguelles’ arrangements of tunes written by members of the Blue Notes, the group of South African musicians who were exiled from their homeland in the 1960s and subsequently moved to London where they had a profound and lasting effect on the UK jazz scene. Sadly many of them died tragically early with drummer Louis Moholo Moholo the only surviving member.

Arguelles and his older brother Steve were strongly influenced by the music of the Blue Notes as was Django Bates and it was their enduring love of this timeless music that led to this collaboration. Both Bates and Steve Arguelles appeared on “Let It Be Told” and both played prominent roles in today’s performance.

The Arguelles Brothers and Bates will always be linked with the seminal British big band Loose Tubes but prior to this they had all worked with the Blue Notes’ alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana in his band Zila and Pukwana was to have a significant influence on the work of Loose Tubes. Julian Arguelles has also played in bands led by Moholo Moholo and by the late Blue Notes pianist and Brotherhood of Breath leader Chris McGregor.

Although the music of the Blue Notes has previously been recorded and performed in a large ensemble format by the Dedication Orchestra (an aggregation that initially included Bates) Arguelles’ love of the music was so strong that he wanted to put his own stamp on it. Both today’s performance and the “Let It Be Told” album represent a joyous celebration of the Blue Notes and their legacy. Arguelles is a superb orchestrator and his skilled arrangements plus the marvellous playing of all the musicians involved ensured that for may people this was one of their ‘gigs of the festival’.

I was certainly expecting great things having previously heard and reviewed “Let It Be Told”. I’d also seen the FRBB perform at the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival when they collaborated with the Anglo-Scandinavian trio Phronesis in a wonderful performance at the Milton Court concert hall. The repertoire consisted of simply brilliant big band arrangements of Phronesis tunes by Julian Arguelles who also directed the FRBB as they shared the stage with the members of Phronesis (Jasper Hoiby – double bass, Ivo Neame – piano and Anton Eger – drums). Again this was beyond doubt one of the stand-out gigs of that festival.

Today at Cheltenham Arguelles did more than just direct as he took up his alto saxophone to play the Dudu Pukwana role as he shared the solos with Bates on the opening “Mra Khali”, written of course by Dudu Pukwana. Bates’ piano was initially a little too low in the mix, drowned out by the twin drum kits of Steve Arguelles and the FRBB’s Paul Hochstadter. Happily this was a situation that the sound engineers were able to rectify as the concert progressed.

Next we heard “Mama Marimba” written by Blue Notes bassist Johnny Dyani. This opened with a freely structured chorale out of which the theme subsequently emerged, played by Bates on piano. The featured soloists here were trombonist Christian Jaksjo, a musician who had made a big impression at the Phronesis/FRBB performance, and star tenor saxophonist Tony Lakatos.

“Retreat Song”, written by vocalist Miriam Makeba began with the lonely sound of a sole alto saxophone played by Heinz Dieter Sauerborn before mutating into a melancholy lilt with the first solo coming from Peter Feil on vocalised, plunger muted trombone. There was a brief duo exchange between the Arguelles brothers, Julian on alto and Steve at the drum kit, before a closing solo from Bates on synthesiser, his signature sound evoking memories of Loose Tubes.

The late trumpeter Mongezi Feza’s “You Ain’t Going To Know Me Unless You Know Me” is one of the most enduringly popular tunes to emerge from the Blue Notes stable and we were to hear a very different version of it later on in the day, but I’ll come to that in due course. Here it was ushered in by a delightful and elegant dialogue between Bates on piano and Oliver Leicht on clarinet before the familiar melody eventually emerged. Feza died aged just thirty in tragic circumstances in the mid 1970s but this tune remains a fine and worthy legacy.

A lively horn and percussion heavy arrangement of Pukwana’s “Diamond Express” saw Arguelles revisiting his Dudu role on alto as he shared the solos with trumpeter Axel Schlosser.

The “Let It Be Told” album occasionally includes compositions from outside the immediate Blue Notes circle, a case being the delightful ballad arrangement of one of Abdullah Ibrahim’s best known tunes, “The Wedding” . The combination of lush horn voicings and Bates’ crystalline acoustic piano was further enhanced by the featured soloists, Hans Dieter Saurborn on alto sax and Rainer Heute on bass clarinet. Only one drum kit featured on this tune as Hochstadter sat out entirely and Steve Arguelles confined himself to brushes.

Until this point Arguelles and the FRBB had played the album in its exact running order but the leader now introduced a ‘bonus piece’, a new arrangement of Chris McGregor’s “Sea Breeze”.
“This is the piece I changed the least” explained Arguelles “it’s beautiful just the way it is”. He also cited the particularly difficult part played by the bass trombone. After a percussive, almost funky intro that featured Julian himself on alto sax solos came from Jaksjo on trombone, Lakatos on tenor and Bates at the piano.

It was back to the album repertoire, albeit in a slightly different running order, for “Amabutho”, a traditional song that had previously been adapted by Joseph Shabalala, leader of the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In Arguelles hands the arrangement became an unaccompanied horn chorale for a section including Julian on alto plus clarinet, two bass clarinets and Schlosser on trumpet. 

“Amasi” was another rousing and exciting McGregor tune featuring Rainer Heute on baritone sax and culminating in a thrilling drum battle between Paul Hochstadter and Steve Arguelles.

The concert concluded with “Come Again” co-written by Pukwana and Martha Mdenge, a joyous, celebratory slice of Township Jazz featuring Arguelles on alto, Schlosser on pocket trumpet and Martin Scales on guitar.

Minor sound difficulties aside this had been a magnificent concert and the audience in a packed Town Hall responded with suitable enthusiasm and shouted for an encore. Sadly none was to be forthcoming, I suspect that there were probably no further arrangements and, of course, these gentlemen of the orchestra had a plane to catch.

In any event they’d already delivered the goods with a glorious display of sophisticated and celebratory big band jazz. Well done to all.

MEADOW, PARABOLA ARTS CENTRE / CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH, THE JAZZ ARENA

I was unable to obtain press tickets for either of these shows but not wanting to miss out on either of them I stumped up the money and attended as a paying customer.

Although I don’t intend to write a full review of either of them I thoroughly enjoyed these two very different events.

At the PAC the surviving members of Meadow, the Norwegian musicians Thomas Stronen (drums) and Tore Brunborg (tenor & soprano sax) paid tribute to their former bandmate, the late, great British pianist and composer John Taylor who died suddenly and unexpectedly in the summer of 2015.

Meadow had been contracted to play Cheltenham in 2016 and decided to honour the booking, turning the performance into a homage to Taylor. In a programme of new material written by Brunborg and Stronen they were augmented by the bassist Anders Jormin who had played in an early edition of Meadow and who slotted in superbly with the group’s melodic, all acoustic chamber jazz aesthetic. This was a beautiful performance that was a fitting tribute to the great John Taylor.

Over at the Jazz Arena New Orleans born trumpeter Christian Scott’s performance was very different. Fronting his new quintet Stretch Music Scott played with great energy and verve, his sound incorporating elements of hip hop and soul as well as classic jazz. The trumpeter was joined by the Americans Logan Richardson (alto sax), Luques Curtis (bass) and Corey Fonville (drums) plus the Martinique born keyboard player Tony Tixier.

Amazingly this was the quintet’s first gig together but they acquitted themselves superbly playing a mix of jazz standards by Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane alongside Scott’s own compositions. As this stellar group progresses I’m sure that the focus will be entirely on original material.

Heavily miked up the Scott quintet were loud by jazz standards but this only added to the punch and sparkle of the music. Scott is a charismatic front man but he’s also a man of the people, seen fraternising with fans in Montpellier Gardens before the gig as well as jamming at Hotel De Vin later on.

This gig at a sold out Jazz Arena was lauded by many of my fellow commentators as the best of the weekend and I have to say it was right up there. Scott is a musician with genuine star quality and this new band of his is going to be well worth keeping an eye on.

DAVID SANBORN ELECTRIC BAND, THE BIG TOP

From the (comparatively) youthful promise of Christian Scott to the veteran (again, comparatively) saxophonist David Sanborn over at the Jazz Arena. Sanborn’s distinctive alto has been heard on records by Stevie Wonder, Gil Evans, James Brown, Jaco Pastorius and perhaps most famously David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. But he’s also a skilled jazz improviser despite the tendency of some critics to dismiss his music as ‘lightweight’ or ‘smooth jazz’.

Elements of blues, soul, funk and r’n'b have always been central to Sanborn’s sound and at the 2011 London Jazz Festival I saw him give an enjoyable performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the company of a trio featuring the brilliant organist Joey De Francesco plus drummer Byron Langham.

Fast forward to 2016 and Sanborn has assembled a quintet that he refers to as his ‘Electric Band’ featuring Ricky Peterson on keyboards, Nicky Moroch on guitar, Andre Berry on electric bass, Billy Kilson at the drums and studio veteran Karl Van Den Bossche on percussion. They proved to be a highly competent if slightly faceless ensemble, I seem to recall there being rather more chemistry between Sanborn and his 2011 trio.

Things kicked off with Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star” which featured some rather unnecessary and irritating wordless vocalising from Peterson and Berry but this was mercifully curtailed by the incisive and distinctive sound of the leader’s alto. The highly entertaining Van Den Bossche was also featured on percussion but he was tucked away at the side of the stage and not really illuminated sufficiently, which was also something of a disappointment.

Sanborn recorded Marcus Miller’s “Maputo” on the album “Double Vision”, a collaboration with the keyboard player Bob James. Tonight’s version featured the flute like sounds of Peterson’s keyboards alongside the leader’s alto.

Miller also had a compositional hand in “Camel Island”, a piece co-written with Sanborn which featured Berry’s slapped bass and Peterson on Hammond with guitarist Moroch also emerging from the comparative shadows.  Van den Bossche was also featured with an extended percussion feature, an impressively energetic display that was rather better lit second time around. But at the heart of it all was Sanborn’s expressive alto - behind the smooth jazz trappings there’s an inspired improviser whose impassioned marathon soloing combines inventiveness with an admirable stamina.

One of the best moments of the set wasn’t even musical as Sanborn launched into an impressively angry rant about the state of American and British politics, declaring himself to be ‘embarrassed’ about the ongoing Presidential campaign and lamenting the way in which the man in the street has generally been ‘fucked over’ by the powers that be. I know that jazz audiences are generally left leaning but I thought that it was pretty brave of him to vent his spleen quite so bitterly in ultra conservative Cheltenham.

All of this was by way of introduction to the tune “Ordinary People”, dedicated to the hard working rank and file on both sides of the Atlantic trying to earn an honest crust in an increasingly hostile and corrupt environment. Some of that anger came out in the music during the course of this slow burning, ultimately anthemic tune, one could sense the indignation rising as Sanborn’s bluesy alto become increasingly impassioned as he blew long and hard over the swell and rumble of Peterson’s Hammond. Moroch’s blistering rock guitar solo climaxed the song and brought the anger into even greater focus. This combination of acerbic social comment backed up by some of the most powerful music of the set was the undisputed highlight of the show.

After the angst and the seriousness it was back to business as usual with the crunching funk grooves of “Chicago Song” with Peterson adopting a clavinet like sound on his keyboards behind Sanborn’s declamatory alto.

“Spanish Joint” began with a feature for Kilson and Van Den Bossche above Berry’s electric bass groove before opening out to incorporate solos from Sanborn on alto, Peterson on Rhodes and Moroch on guitar, the latter also trading phrases with Sanborn in thrilling fashion. 

The performance concluded with “Dream”, the jazz equivalent of a stadium rock anthem with its solid rhythms, slow burning alto solo and wordless vocals from Peterson. It was left to Kilson to end the proceedings with a closing drum flourish.

I know that several people were disappointed with this concert including Peter Jones writing for London Jazz News but overall I enjoyed it as did many others. Yes, there was a sense that the band were sometimes going through the motions and I certainly didn’t like the vocals. Also I didn’t find Peterson’s keyboard playing as convincing as that of Chad Selph in the Marcus Strickland band the previous day.

That said David Sanborn is never likely to play a bad show and I was impressed with his passion and energy at seventy – and not just with regard to that unexpected political rant. Some of his playing was pretty damn impressive too. I also enjoyed Van Den Bossche’s lively and colourful contribution behind his array of percussion. Overall the positives outweighed the negatives, and I’ll remember that verbal outburst for a long time.

MULATU ASTATKE, JAZZ ARENA

I have to admit to knowing precious little about Mulatu Astatke, “the Father of Ethio-Jazz”, before tonight’s performance but the fact that so many leading contemporary jazz musicians have either performed with him or have named him as a significant influence made me think that I really owed it to myself to check him out.

Born in 1943 in the Ethiopian city of Jimma Astatke studied music in both the UK and the US and subsequently developed a unique blend of jazz, Latin music and traditional Ethiopian music that he dubbed “Ethio-Jazz”.

Sure enough Astatke’s band at Cheltenham included some great British players including James Arben on reeds, Byron Wallen on trumpet, Alexander Hawkins on piano, Tom Skinner on drum kit and the great John Edwards on double bass. The line up was completed by cellist Danny Keane and percussionist Richard Olatunde Baker with Astatke centre stage playing vibraphone, congas and other items of percussion.

Naturally this was highly rhythmic music with Olatunde Baker and Astatke himself particularly animated, vibrant and watchable. The leader impressed with his numerous vibraphone solos and percussion features but there were also fiery solos from Arben and Wallen on tenor sax and trumpet respectively.

Astatke was keen to share the solos around the band and Hawkins impressed with an absolutely torrential piano solo while Edwards launched a typically physical assault on his bass as well as providing an astonishing rhythmic drive throughout as he linked up expertly with the three drummers/percussionists.

Arben also featured on flute and bass clarinet while Keane’s cello brought an interesting breadth of colour and texture to the ensemble sound as well as being an effective solo instrument.

Audience participation was encouraged, including the not only the almost obligatory clapping along but also Olatunde leading the audience in an African vocal chant.

The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for “Yerkerma Sew”, Astatke’s composition for the soundtrack of the Jim Jarmusch film “Broken Flowers” which helped to get the audience onside fairly early on in the set. 

Still youthful at seventy three Astatke led his band with élan and considerable charm, an eminently benign figure on the bandstand. His musicians responded with some razor sharp ensemble playing and some outstanding individual solos. This was a band that would have been even better suited to a late night ‘party’ slot but there was still much to enjoy about their playing, even in the early evening.

Once again I had to drag myself away early from this vibrant, colourful music to make my way to the hallowed portals of the PAC for my next event which was;


GIOVANNI GUIDI TRIO, PARABOLA ARTS CENTRE

The last gig of the 2016 Festival at the PAC was by the international trio led by the young Italian pianist and composer Giovanni Guidi.

Guidi, born 1985, has released two trio albums for ECM, “City Of Broken Dreams” (2011) and “This Is The Day” (2015). He has also issued a number of other albums in different instrumental formats on other labels.

Introducing the trio Tony Dudley Evans mentioned that he had seen them perform at Jazzahead in Bremen in 2015 and thought that they would be ideal for Cheltenham. His judgement was fully vindicated by a brilliantly interactive trio performance that utilised the superb acoustics of the PAC superbly.

The Guidi trio also appear to be a perfect fit for ECM with their effective use of space between the notes a distinctive characteristic of this performance with the notes sometimes seeming to just hang in the air. Portuguese drummer Joao Lobo plays on both of the ECM albums and although it’s the American bassist Thomas Morgan who appears on the records tonight’s trio featuring Danish bassist Nicolai Munch-Hansen was still a finely balanced unit that meshed together brilliantly and intuitively.

The opening piece began in archetypal ECM fashion with pregnant single notes carrying a wealth of information as they floated suspended in the air in a commendably full but hushed PAC. Sparse but dramatic under the lid strumming and eerily bowed cymbals and mallet rumbles added to the atmosphere but Guidi was soon steering the trio into more conventional piano territory with the dialogue between himself and Lobo particularly impressive as Munch-Hansen continued to play something of a holding role. But it would be wrong to think of the Guidi Trio as ‘typical ECM’, the pianist was soon leading his band mates into even deeper, more freely structured waters with the pianist fearlessly executing thunderous Cecil Taylor / Myra Melford like storms full of jagged cross handed runs as Lobo deployed a variety of small percussive devices in the manner of a free jazz drummer. As the music became more and more animated in this lengthy opening section Guidi played with a Keith Jarrett like physicality, contorting his body into a variety of almost impossible shapes on the piano stool as he became more and more immersed in the music. Ultimately this was daring, seat of the pants stuff which was delivered with an astonishing level of technique and dexterity.

The second piece began with a passage of solo piano before the introduction of Munch-Hansen’s bass counter melody and the sound of Lobo’s delicately brushed drums. The piece than developed via a piano/ bass dialogue underscored by Lobo’s cymbal scrapes to again enter more turbulent waters, first incorporating a vigorous interlude for just bass and drums before Guidi rejoined the fray with furiously hammered arpeggios accompanied by busy bass and chattering drums. Finally the piece resolved itself with a return to the earlier lyricism with Munch-Hansen’s bass temporarily taking over the melody accompanied by the gentle patter of Lobo’s hand drums. Guidi’s lightness of touch in this closing passage was a delight and a total contrast to the violence of the tune’s mid section. He is a pianist with technique to burn.

Tune announcements were rare but some pieces were eminently recognisable such as “ I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” which began in almost hymnal fashion before developing something of an avant garde undercurrent as Guidi’s lush melodicism was deliberately undermined by the wilfully ugly sounds of Lobo’s bowed cymbals and harshly scraped drum skins. This was real ‘chalk scraping down the blackboard’ stuff and a process that Luke Davidson writing for London Jazz News memorably described as “the grit in the pearl”. For myself I relished Guidi’s humour and playfulness, characteristics that also distinguish the playing of his compatriot Stefano Bollani, also signed to ECM.

And it was to another Italian that Guidi gleefully dedicated the final tune of the evening (a well deserved encore) as he acknowledged the footballing triumphs of one Claudio Ranieri. The tune was Mongezi Feza’s “You Ain’t Gonna Know Me (‘Cos You think Know Me)”, now sounding very different to earlier in the day when it was played by Julian Arguelles and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

Although I haven’t been totally convinced by Guidi’s ECM recordings I was blown away by this performance which, for me, ranks right up there as one of the best of the Festival. There was everything here that one could wish for in a piano trio performance, flawless technique, melody and lyricism counterbalanced by a corresponding grittiness and a willingness to explore and take musical risks. All this from a highly interactive trio that was not afraid to inject an element of humour into the music. The superb level of the musicianship was perfectly complemented by the immaculate acoustic of the PAC. This was definitely a gig to savour and remember and a fittingly magnificent conclusion to the programme at the PAC for 2016. It is to be very much hoped that Cheltenham Ladies College will allow the Festival to use the venue again next year.

MELT YOURSELF DOWN, SUBTONE

The Subtone is a basement bar on Cheltenham’s Promenade, a nightspot that has been deployed as a venue by the Festival before although it’s been many years since I last went there. That was more years ago than I care to remember and was an afternoon performance by the Hungry Ants, the now defunct band led by pianist/keyboard player Richard Fairhurst.

Tonight’s show was very different to my previous Subtone visit and a total contrast to the hushed, reverential atmosphere of the Guidi gig at the PAC. For this late night show it was standing room only with a large crowd crammed into the hot and sweaty downstairs room to witness a performance by Melt Yourself Down, a sextet led by former Acoustic Ladyland saxophonist Pete Wareham that also featured fellow saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. The group also featured Ruth Goller on electric bass, Satin Singh on percussion and Tom Skinner, playing at least his second gig of the day on drum kit. The band were fronted by vocalist Kushal Gaya, an energetic and charismatic front man who spent much of his time down among the audience.

Signed to the Leeds based Leaf label Melt Yourself Down have released two albums to date, their eponymous début from 2013 and the new “Last Evenings On Earth” (2016). On record their sound is manipulated by electronics artist Leafcutter John, sadly not present this evening, though whether there would have been room for him on an already overcrowded stage is a moot point.

The term ‘punk jazz’ has been widely used over the course of the last ten years or so but ‘jazz punk’ might be more appropriate to describe the music played by Melt Yourself Down. Essentially these are jazz musicians playing punk, short thrashy songs featuring Gaya’s manic, mantra like vocals.

Halfway back in the crowded club it was difficult to see everybody on the stage, apart from the phenomenally tall tenor toting Hutchings who combined with the hat wearing Wareham in a ferocious twin horn assault reinforced by Goller’s thunderous electric bass lines and the double percussive assault of Skinner and Singh. Rhythmically and sonically MYD were a juggernaut, playing at rock volume in the strobe lit, increasingly sweaty club. Gaya bellowed out his vocals, bouncing around the stage , hanging off the rafters and leaping into the crowd to pogo with a raucous and enthusiastic audience.

Note taking wasn’t an option so I can’t tell you exactly what they played but my guess is that most of it was from the new album “Last Evenings On Earth”. This was a band that were perfectly suited to both their environment and the late night time slot. A mostly youngish audience (myself and Tony Dudley Evans helped to push the average age up) loved the frenetically energetic show with MYD just exuding attitude and clearly taking a great delight in their playing. These musicians may perform more complex music in other contexts but they clearly the relish to let their hair down and blow their socks off with MYD.

Despite the lateness of the hour the set flew by in a rush of adrenaline and I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed MYD’s music. The records can appear a bit too simplistic in comparison to either Acoustic Ladyland or Polar Bear, two of the other key bands with which Wareham has been involved, but tonight was the perfect context in which to appreciate MYD’s blend of punk and Afro-Jazz, a turbo-charged slice of energy and attitude that delighted the capacity crowd. It was the first time I’d witnessed pogoing at what was nominally a jazz gig since Acoustic Ladyland played at a similarly crowded Barfly in Cardiff back in 2005, one of the most remarkable gigs I think I’ve ever seen. 

Still exhilarated I exited into the chilly Cheltenham night reflecting that this thrillingly caustic performance by MYD was the perfect way to round off an excellent day’s music with Giovanni Guidi just about getting the nod for ‘gig of the day’.

 


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