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Malija - Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 "Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one". Ian Mann on Malija's new direction.

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.


It is highly unusual for Shrewsbury Jazz Network to present a gig in December, but this year constituted a very special exception. The organisation was celebrating its twenty first anniversary of presenting jazz in the town and the reception area at The Hive was deployed to exhibit a display of fascinating archive material including old gig posters and flyers. Congratulations to SJN on reaching this milestone. As for myself I’m a comparative newcomer, having only been covering events at The Hive on a regular basis since January 2010 when I reviewed the performance of pianist John Turville and his trio.

For tonight’s special anniversary gig SJN hosted the jazz ‘supergroup’ Malija featuring the talents of Mark Lockheart (tenor & soprano saxes), Liam Noble (keyboards) and Jasper Hoiby (double bass). . The band name is one of those conflated group monikers, sourced from the first two letters of the given names of the three performers, it could just as well have been Jamali or Lijama.

But in many ways it’s appropriate that it’s Lockheart’s letters that come first for it was on his 2009 quintet album “In Deep” (Edition Records) that these three musicians first played together, quickly establishing a rapport that eventually led to the formation of this smaller unit. 

As Malija the trio have released two albums for Edition Records, “The Day I Had Everything” (2015) and “Instinct” (2017). Both albums were wholly acoustic, with Noble playing grand piano, and presented a robust blend of ‘chamber jazz’ with the three group members sharing the writing credits around but also bringing a strong improvisational element to the music in a series of fiercely interactive trio performances.

In April 2016 I witnessed a live performance by the trio at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton, a gig that featured much excellent playing but which suffered as an ‘event’ due to a disappointingly small audience turnout and a consequent lack of atmosphere.

This wasn’t to be an issue this evening. Audience numbers at The Hive have been excellent throughout 2018 and a loyal and attentive crowd got behind Malija from the start to create the kind of supportive aura that was lacking at Wolverhampton.

The crowd reaction was particularly gratifying as this was a very different Malija to the one I had been expecting. The two albums plus the Wolverhampton show had been entirely acoustic but tonight found the trio taking a radically different approach to their music.

I’d sensed that something was different before the musicians even took to the stage. The performance area was strewn with electronic equipment, each musician had an array of foot pedals and Noble’s set up featured two electric keyboards plus a lap top. As Lockheart later explained the trio had become bored with playing their tunes with the original acoustic arrangements and had decided to shake things up a bit and do something different with their material, most of which was sourced tonight from the “Instinct” album.

Introduced by Lockheart’s unaccompanied tenor sax the opening segue of Lockheart’s “Kindred Spirit” and Noble’s “TV Shoes” saw the trio adding unfamiliar elements such as the live looping of Hoiby’s bowed bass drones and the sounds of Noble’s processed electric keyboards. Lockheart’s tenor remained the humanising voice within all of this as he soloed above the cerebrally funky grooves created by the combination of Noble’s keyboards and Hoiby’s vigorous pizzicato bass.

Noble’s “Moonstairs” was also given a radically different treatment to the recorded version with Hoiby’s looped wah wah bass and arco drones underscoring Lockheart’s piercing soprano sax.
The saxophonist subsequently switched to tenor on an atmospheric piece that successfully attempted to evoke the image of someone tentatively climbing a set of moonlit stairs.

The next piece was unannounced but commenced with the sound of looped arco bass allied to Noble’s keyboards and Lockheart’s tenor, the saxophonist stating the folk like theme with the melody doubled by Noble’s keyboards. Lockheart subsequently switched to soprano while Noble’s looped and layered keyboard textures suggested the influence of minimalism.

The first set concluded with another unannounced piece featuring the combination of soprano sax underscored by looped grooves and layered textures courtesy of Noble’s keys and Hoiby’s bass, the latter deploying both arco and pizzicato techniques. As the textures became darker Lockheart again moved to tenor as an intriguing first half came to a close.

What we had witnessed might not have been what many members of the audience were expecting to hear but they still gave a very favourable reaction to this new look, experimental Malija.

The second set commenced with Lockheart’s “Sanctuary”, a beautiful piece with a particularly memorable tenor sax melody, accompanied here by Hoiby both with and without the bow and with both the bassist and Noble making subtle but effective use of the effects at their disposal.

Also by Lockheart “Elegantly Posh” began with an engaging dialogue between the leader’s tenor sax and Noble’s Korg keyboard, on which he adopted a classic electric piano sound. Propelled by Hoiby’s plucked bass and with subsequent solos for both tenor and keyboard this was one of the most straightforward items of the evening.

“Let’s make something up” announced Hoiby, embodying the group’s improvisational impulses. His arco bass introduction was carefully looped and layered to produce a textured backdrop above which he soloed pizzicato. It reminded me of Eberhard Weber’s early experiments with this technique, particularly when Lockheart’s soprano sax was added to the equation, evoking memories of the late, great Charlie Mariano in Weber’s group, Colours.

Lockheart continued on soprano for the next, unannounced, piece, his playing evoking folk music elements, particularly the sounds of the Middle East, and exploring elements of wilful dissonance.

Finally we heard Noble’s “Panda Feathers”, a piece that in its recorded version commences with a lengthy stretch of unaccompanied acoustic piano. Tonight it was totally transformed as Noble delivered a solo passage on his Novation 615C Mk.II electric keyboard, plus all its switches, pedals and gizmos, the pianist now transformed into a mad scientist figure (complete with odd socks) as he conjured a mind boggling array of sounds from his set up. Grinning to himself and uttering the occasional laugh of approval Noble was clearly loving every minute of it. Bowed bass and tenor sax completed the equation and by this time any doubters had definitely been won over.

An excellent reception from the audience saw the trio return to deliver an encore, their signature tune “Malija” from their first album with Lockheart delivering an echoed, but otherwise fairly straight ahead solo on tenor, this followed by a bass and keyboards dialogue with Hoiby and Noble again deploying their various electronic devices.

Hoiby later told me that This had been only the second gig that the trio had played in this format, so the new look Malija is very definitely a work in progress. We had been privileged to witness a group experimenting in public, and I for one found the results fascinating. There have been times when I’ve found the acoustic version of the trio to be a little bloodless, so overall I quite welcome this new direction.

Noble and Hoiby were like a couple of kids at Christmas with their new toys and one senses that the
inspiration for this change of direction came from the bassist who is currently experimenting with electronica in his new trio Planet B, a collaboration with saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and drummer Mark Michel.

Malija are still refining their new direction and still getting to grips with the new technology – Noble’s keyboards threatened to break down completely at one point – but both he and Hoiby seemed to be relishing the new challenge. Lockheart seemed less certain, using looping and echo only very sparingly. One sensed that he might not be totally convinced by the apparent change in direction. It will be fascinating to see whether Malija continue to pursue this path in the future, especially if they record a third album. 

Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one.

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.

Malija

Monday, December 17, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.
Photography: Photograph of Liam Noble of Malija by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network

"Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one". Ian Mann on Malija's new direction.

Malija, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 08/12/2018.


It is highly unusual for Shrewsbury Jazz Network to present a gig in December, but this year constituted a very special exception. The organisation was celebrating its twenty first anniversary of presenting jazz in the town and the reception area at The Hive was deployed to exhibit a display of fascinating archive material including old gig posters and flyers. Congratulations to SJN on reaching this milestone. As for myself I’m a comparative newcomer, having only been covering events at The Hive on a regular basis since January 2010 when I reviewed the performance of pianist John Turville and his trio.

For tonight’s special anniversary gig SJN hosted the jazz ‘supergroup’ Malija featuring the talents of Mark Lockheart (tenor & soprano saxes), Liam Noble (keyboards) and Jasper Hoiby (double bass). . The band name is one of those conflated group monikers, sourced from the first two letters of the given names of the three performers, it could just as well have been Jamali or Lijama.

But in many ways it’s appropriate that it’s Lockheart’s letters that come first for it was on his 2009 quintet album “In Deep” (Edition Records) that these three musicians first played together, quickly establishing a rapport that eventually led to the formation of this smaller unit. 

As Malija the trio have released two albums for Edition Records, “The Day I Had Everything” (2015) and “Instinct” (2017). Both albums were wholly acoustic, with Noble playing grand piano, and presented a robust blend of ‘chamber jazz’ with the three group members sharing the writing credits around but also bringing a strong improvisational element to the music in a series of fiercely interactive trio performances.

In April 2016 I witnessed a live performance by the trio at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton, a gig that featured much excellent playing but which suffered as an ‘event’ due to a disappointingly small audience turnout and a consequent lack of atmosphere.

This wasn’t to be an issue this evening. Audience numbers at The Hive have been excellent throughout 2018 and a loyal and attentive crowd got behind Malija from the start to create the kind of supportive aura that was lacking at Wolverhampton.

The crowd reaction was particularly gratifying as this was a very different Malija to the one I had been expecting. The two albums plus the Wolverhampton show had been entirely acoustic but tonight found the trio taking a radically different approach to their music.

I’d sensed that something was different before the musicians even took to the stage. The performance area was strewn with electronic equipment, each musician had an array of foot pedals and Noble’s set up featured two electric keyboards plus a lap top. As Lockheart later explained the trio had become bored with playing their tunes with the original acoustic arrangements and had decided to shake things up a bit and do something different with their material, most of which was sourced tonight from the “Instinct” album.

Introduced by Lockheart’s unaccompanied tenor sax the opening segue of Lockheart’s “Kindred Spirit” and Noble’s “TV Shoes” saw the trio adding unfamiliar elements such as the live looping of Hoiby’s bowed bass drones and the sounds of Noble’s processed electric keyboards. Lockheart’s tenor remained the humanising voice within all of this as he soloed above the cerebrally funky grooves created by the combination of Noble’s keyboards and Hoiby’s vigorous pizzicato bass.

Noble’s “Moonstairs” was also given a radically different treatment to the recorded version with Hoiby’s looped wah wah bass and arco drones underscoring Lockheart’s piercing soprano sax.
The saxophonist subsequently switched to tenor on an atmospheric piece that successfully attempted to evoke the image of someone tentatively climbing a set of moonlit stairs.

The next piece was unannounced but commenced with the sound of looped arco bass allied to Noble’s keyboards and Lockheart’s tenor, the saxophonist stating the folk like theme with the melody doubled by Noble’s keyboards. Lockheart subsequently switched to soprano while Noble’s looped and layered keyboard textures suggested the influence of minimalism.

The first set concluded with another unannounced piece featuring the combination of soprano sax underscored by looped grooves and layered textures courtesy of Noble’s keys and Hoiby’s bass, the latter deploying both arco and pizzicato techniques. As the textures became darker Lockheart again moved to tenor as an intriguing first half came to a close.

What we had witnessed might not have been what many members of the audience were expecting to hear but they still gave a very favourable reaction to this new look, experimental Malija.

The second set commenced with Lockheart’s “Sanctuary”, a beautiful piece with a particularly memorable tenor sax melody, accompanied here by Hoiby both with and without the bow and with both the bassist and Noble making subtle but effective use of the effects at their disposal.

Also by Lockheart “Elegantly Posh” began with an engaging dialogue between the leader’s tenor sax and Noble’s Korg keyboard, on which he adopted a classic electric piano sound. Propelled by Hoiby’s plucked bass and with subsequent solos for both tenor and keyboard this was one of the most straightforward items of the evening.

“Let’s make something up” announced Hoiby, embodying the group’s improvisational impulses. His arco bass introduction was carefully looped and layered to produce a textured backdrop above which he soloed pizzicato. It reminded me of Eberhard Weber’s early experiments with this technique, particularly when Lockheart’s soprano sax was added to the equation, evoking memories of the late, great Charlie Mariano in Weber’s group, Colours.

Lockheart continued on soprano for the next, unannounced, piece, his playing evoking folk music elements, particularly the sounds of the Middle East, and exploring elements of wilful dissonance.

Finally we heard Noble’s “Panda Feathers”, a piece that in its recorded version commences with a lengthy stretch of unaccompanied acoustic piano. Tonight it was totally transformed as Noble delivered a solo passage on his Novation 615C Mk.II electric keyboard, plus all its switches, pedals and gizmos, the pianist now transformed into a mad scientist figure (complete with odd socks) as he conjured a mind boggling array of sounds from his set up. Grinning to himself and uttering the occasional laugh of approval Noble was clearly loving every minute of it. Bowed bass and tenor sax completed the equation and by this time any doubters had definitely been won over.

An excellent reception from the audience saw the trio return to deliver an encore, their signature tune “Malija” from their first album with Lockheart delivering an echoed, but otherwise fairly straight ahead solo on tenor, this followed by a bass and keyboards dialogue with Hoiby and Noble again deploying their various electronic devices.

Hoiby later told me that This had been only the second gig that the trio had played in this format, so the new look Malija is very definitely a work in progress. We had been privileged to witness a group experimenting in public, and I for one found the results fascinating. There have been times when I’ve found the acoustic version of the trio to be a little bloodless, so overall I quite welcome this new direction.

Noble and Hoiby were like a couple of kids at Christmas with their new toys and one senses that the
inspiration for this change of direction came from the bassist who is currently experimenting with electronica in his new trio Planet B, a collaboration with saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and drummer Mark Michel.

Malija are still refining their new direction and still getting to grips with the new technology – Noble’s keyboards threatened to break down completely at one point – but both he and Hoiby seemed to be relishing the new challenge. Lockheart seemed less certain, using looping and echo only very sparingly. One sensed that he might not be totally convinced by the apparent change in direction. It will be fascinating to see whether Malija continue to pursue this path in the future, especially if they record a third album. 

Tonight’s performance came very much as a musical surprise, but on the whole a fascinating and enjoyable one.


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