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Bath Festival again, (May 29-31)

June 23, 2010
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New JazzWise mag with my Bath review is now out – so posting it here in case anyone visits who does not subscribe, so I can find it again, and because I like paragraphs and they don’t.

Bath International Music Festival, May 29-31

Beats and riffs cut through much of Bath’s annual jazzy weekend. A Saturday afternoon pairing of Led Bib and Acoustic Ladyland – maybe not the ideal time of day – highlighted what these edgy Brit bands have in common: slick arrangements, a sound mix as bright as a dentist’s drill, simple materials and bags of energy. Led Bib, playing mostly new tunes, were less relentless, hence more interesting. Ladyland had crunchier basslines and freaky guitar, but seemed a little overblown for the audience who remained seated despite exhortations to rise. Plenty were on their feet later (they took most of the chairs out of Bath’s slightly airless Pavilion ballroom) for Booker T, playing a clutch of soul, blues ‘n R&B classics as though he owns them – Oh, he does.

Monday night’s finale danced to a different beat, the Gaudeloupean creole-funk of David Murray and the Gwo-Ka Masters. They made a joyful rhythm-dominated noise for nearly two hours, aided by the unexpected presence of the masterful Hamid Drake on drums and Senegalese guitar prodigy Herve Samb. The whole thing grooved along happily, but Murray and trumpeter Rasul Siddik mostly hustled through their solos without really connecting with the percussive proceedings. When they slowed the tempo a shade, the resulting sax excursion was less frantic, more involving.

Between beats there was a mini piano festival, featuring a lush set from John Taylor, playing solo in the absence of billed duo partner Kenny Wheeler, Django Bates’ absorbing 21st century reworkings of Charlie Parker and octogenarian marvel Martial Solal. You would describe Bates as mercurial if the Frenchman were not in town to claim the word. As usual, the “international” in Bath’s title covered a great choice of visiting Europeans. Solal’s compatriots in Julien Lourau’s Quartet Saigon were a class act, but more memorable still were trumpeter Eric Vloiemans all-Dutch Fugimundi trio. They delivered an astonishingly interactive and inventive set, with Vloiemans alternately exuberant and poignant, his cohorts Anton Goudsmit on guitar and Harmen Fraanje on piano weaving magic around him. Even on the evening that featured Solal’s magnificent, sly virtuosity, they stole the show.

P.S. Vloiemans live CD, recorded at Yoshi’s in San Francisco and bought after the show from the Bath jazz store – pretty much the only one out this way and well worth a visit – is stunningly good, too.

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