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Iain Ballamy’s Anorak, Future Inns Jazz Club, Dec 6

December 8, 2009

A fortnight after the London Jazz Festival indulgences, felt ready to go to a live gig again. It was not so much that I didn’t feel like listening to music – that feeling, of still processing, fades after a few days, and I’ve listened to lots. The slight hesitancy, I think, was more about not wanting to repeat the small ritual, lovely though it is, of the whole live thing. I suppose the number of concerts and club sessions I have taken in this year, somewhat obsessively, has finally got to a point where it is self-limiting. Interesting (to me). Coincidentally, I was in a discussion last week about writing some stuff for schools about addiction. It appears that live jazz is not my addiction, exactly, though certainly a strong habit…

Anyhow, this was a good one to get back to live sounds with. Ballamy is a superb player, at least as good as the more celebrated Andy Sheppard (who came up a little earlier), and astoundingly cliche free. Although this is his “back to standards” band, they are distinctly non-standard treatments, mostly based on the old tunes he likes rather than using them directly. And the overall approach is refreshingly distant from the regular theme, solos and out which makes many a gig, even good ones, a bit tedious as spectacle.

And there was plenty of variation in the music – mostly taken from the group’s excellent 2007 CD More Jazz. That has the estimable Orlando Le Fleming on bass but he’s gone to seek his fortune elsewhere so we got – wait for it – Chris Laurence instead. Yay!  What a fantastic musician. As compelling now as he was thirty – is it?  – years ago when he first played with Surman et al.

Oh yes, the music. A ‘Trane tribute to start with (or a tribute to Skidmore doing Trane). It had so many Trane licks it teetered on the brink of parody, but actually sounded great, with Martin France doing a fair Elvin Jones impression to round out the picture. Then a nod to Dudley Moore, a rather different early influence, on Convolution. And so on…   Ballamy’s compositions are all interesting, and his solos are heartfelt and oblique at the same time, in that way at least rather like Wayne Shorter when he is on good latter-day form. Great stuff throughout, and eloquent support too from Gareth Williams on keys, who returns to the venue with his trio in a couple of weeks. It will be interesting to hear him with a different drummer – France is fluent and inventive, but came across as a bit too dominant in some parts of this music. This was partly a balance problem, unusual in this venue, but was the only thing which threatened to make the evening sound as if it was all one kind of thing.

But overall, much more interesting than that and, as ever, a treat to hear in this fine new venue. What an asset to the city it is…

There’s another (positive) view of the evening here.

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