Another week in Birmingham and another week of really varied and stimulating gigs. A few thoughts follow, mostly on the range of experiences that music can generate.
The gig at Fizzle on Tuesday featured a double bill of two trios with saxophonist Rachel Musson in both of them. The first featured Rachel on tenor saxophone, Julie Kjaer on alto saxophone, and Hannah Marshall on cello. They played a beautiful set, based around the interaction between the two saxophonists. This created a gentle, warm set of improvisations all glued together by Hannah Marshall’s contributions on the cello. The second set in which Rachel played with Chris Mapp on electric bass and Mark Sanders on drums was much more upbeat with Rachel weaving long flowing melodic lines over the always varied contributions of Chris and Mark.
It was interesting to compare the music of this Fizzle gig with that heard in the first of the Paul Dunmall Invites series in the previous week and described in the previous posting on this site. The music there created an extremely exciting and dramatic series of improvisations. The two sets at the Fizzle gig were much gentler, full of thoughtful interaction, but nonetheless requiring a concentration and commitment on the part of the audience to get that intense experience that comes from listening to improvised music.
Another fascinating contrast came at the Jazzlines Friday session with the music of Nifeco Costa who leads Babock Djazz, a band of players from Guinea Bissau, a small country in West Africa which has Portuguese as its official language. They have all settled in UK coming originally as refugees. Their music has the gentle flowing rhythm of so much African music, whether it is from West Africa or southern African countries. The music is built around Nifeco’s songs and features the high sound of the guitar so typical of African music. The experience of listening to this music is quite different to that with the improvised music described above. The music is gently rhythmic, but does not vary that much. One sits back and lets it flow over one.
I suppose Liran Donin’s 1000 Boats project heard at Birmingham Jazz on Friday night brings an experience that lies somewhere between that of listening to improvised music and that experienced when listening to Nifeco Costa’s African rhythms. The two sets from the 1000 Boats band presented a number of beautiful melodies strongly influenced by Liran Donin’s Middle Eastern and North African background and were interpreted by a two saxophone front line, Chris Williams on alto sax and Josh Arcaleo on tenor sax, plus some striking contributions from Italian pianist Maria Chiara Argiro and wonderfully lyrical solos from Donin on bass.
Finally, it was a joy to witness on Saturday Mark Sanders’ session with a senior group from the Jazzlines Ensembles. Mark was introducing them to ‘conduction’, an approach originally devised by Butch Morris in which free improvisation is guided by a conductor using a series of hand signals to vary the playing. The students, all teenagers, are proficient on their instruments, but are unlikely to have played in a free jazz style before. Under the guidance of Mark they created some really stimulating and original music. It was then really interesting to observe members of the group undertake their own conductions; again some fascinating music was created
I should declare an interest: I am involved with both the Jazzlines and Fizzle programmes. The opinions expressed here are of course mine.