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Future of Jazz semi-final, Future Inns, May 8

May 16, 2010

Sheesh, busy week, so belatedly…

Something different for a Saturday night, a jazz competition. And even though the notion of a musical competition is a bit daft, it is fun to play judge – and maybe fun to take part. The musicians involved on this rather breathless evening all seemed good friends, anyway.

Under 25s from the South West was the rule, though a few Londoners crept in as side men. First 25 minute set was from the Gabriel Latchin Trio, an impressively competent piano, bass and drums outfit making much of the leader’s devotion to Herbie Hancock. That certainly gives him some rich territory to explore, both in Hancock tunes and one of his own which drew from the same harmonic well, but perhaps hewed too close to the master to display originality – which will no doubt come in a while.

Then a very impressive four-piece from Cardiff, Farmyard Cannibals (as usual, the names are inexplicable).  From this middle-aged listener’s perspective, they looked, shall we say, well under 25, but were brilliantly together. Ben Treacher (Alto) Joe Webb (Piano) Huw Williams (Bass) Lloyd Haines (Drums) all sounded superb and played tricky and interesting compositions by more than one member of the group. A nice, light alto sound to the fore, excellent soloing, especially from the piano, and a lovely bass player and responsive drummer. They tried one little bit of no-safety-net free stuff in the middle of one tune, which didn’t quite come off, but otherwise were full of energy and interest. I’d have happily have heard another 25 minutes – felt like there was plenty more to come.

Another pause, then up stepped James Gardiner-Bateman’s All-in-one-helmet, and everything went up a gear. As locals will know, he’s studying at the Royal Academy and as people do using his time in London to make all the right connections – notably here James Maddren on drums. He remains the pick of young up and coming drummers and it seemed almost unfair to have him competing here. Also excellent trumpet from Freddy Gravita – a new name to me. The absence of piano let them operate in a more freeboppish vein, beginning with a spirited treatment of Ornette’s great Tears Inside. That is one of the most conventional tunes the man ever wrote (there’s a killer version on Art Pepper’s Smack Up) but still sounds distinctively Ornettish. Then some ballad work on You Stepped out of a Dream and a new piece – Momentum Suite – which lived up to its name. Gardiner-Bateman is a resourceful and confident player set to have a real impact, and it showed.

Finally, the least conventional offering, in some ways. This was Lund, the Bristol quartet who apparently went down well at a recent Cabot Circus gig I missed. Actually, they aren’t that unconventional, despite the presence of Jake Whittlin playing samples through a laptop controlled by  tweaking his turntable. Aside from that, which makes a sound I did not warm to – it comes across to me as processed without adding anything much – they are a pretty straight piano trio in contemporary grooving style. All reasonably pleasant, but I found it the least convincing performance of the night.

Then, ta da! the judging. And Gardiner-Bateman’s outfit and Lund are set to reappear in a final on June 5. So the judges (apart from Tony Benjamin who went for the Cannibals) got it wrong, obviously. Still, there will only be one winner, and it will be nice to  hear Gardiner-Bateman – and Maddren again – at greater length in a few weeks.

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