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Weekend roundup: Soweto Kinch, Kit Downes, Township Comets and more.

November 17, 2010

As predicted, an indulgent weekend. First up a walk down to the Old Vic to hear a Friday double bill of James Morton’s Pork Chop and Soweto Kinch’s quartet. Morton came down with food poisoning, so the remaining three in the band took the stage alone. Result, a fine and funky trio set, mostly, with some extended guitar and keyboard solos. They are more at home with the Stax-style soulful stuff – especially the newly composed ones they normally play with Morton than regular jazz standards. There was an, er, ill-advised version of When I Grow Too Old to Dream that stomped all over the thing. I was dying for someone to say: It’s a song guys! If you want to know what it’s about, listen to Sheila Jordan sing it unaccompanied. Then leave it alone…  Me, I didn’t dare.

Then the talented Mr Kinch, debuting his new project The New Emancipation, and having a good time doing it, as he said – and genuinely sounded as if he was. Quite impressive to hear an hour and three quarters of new music, thematically loosely linked  by themes of freedom and emancipation. There was the mix which makes him stand out: agile alto sax playing, rapping (though the complexities of the lyrics were not always intelligible at fast tempos) and articulate links. He is as full of words as music, and you can’t see him concentrating on one or the other. The music, for me, is the main thing, but it all works well, as does the current band with the casually brilliant Femi Temowo on guitar. We even got a bit of freestyling rap at the end, combining improvisation with linguistic skill pretty convincingly. Only in Bristol would someone suggest “Malteser” as the word prompted by the final letter in FREEDOM…

Off to London next day for a taste of the London Jazz festival. Almost gave it a miss this year because there has been so much music in Bristol, but a couple of things we couldn’t resist. Mainly there for Bobby Bradford at the Purcell Room on Saturday, which I’ve reviewed for LondonJazz just for a change. Before that we caught some of the free show in the Clore Ballroom. The sound there is muddy at best, and the place was absolutely rammed – even more so than in 2009 – but the acoustic was not so bad as to obscure the virtues of Sam Crowe’s band, nor Kit Downes’ intriguing sextet – billed as a quintet, but here with another sax player, Josh Arcoleo, added. This was a fascinating extension of the music he plays with his trio – some of the same tunes now arranged for cello and two horns in the front line. If this is one of the directions Downes’ music is taking, it will be fascinating to see where it gets to – and there is already a recording in the can apparently so here’s hoping they tour that next year. It would be good to hear the stuff properly in a nice venue.

Then just one gig on Sunday, but what a gig. Adam Glasser has arranged loads of Dudu Pukwana’s compositions and got together the Township Comets to perform them. I hadn’t thought to hear this music played again so well – great stuff from Chris Batchelor on trumpet and newly Hamlyn-awarded Jason Yarde taking on Dudu’s alto mantle as if it was second nature. Better still, almost, Gene Calderazzo on drums keeping it cracking along and, even better, Pinise Saul singing. Her delivery of Ntyilo, in particular, was soul-searing. All done in a packed Vortex at teatime (nice place, but not as nice as the Bristol club at Future Inns), and rounding off the trip in the best possible way. A two bus, train-and-walk-home journey after failed to wipe the smiles from this one four hours later. Best. Music. Ever. Another band to live in hope of hearing again…


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