Ivo Neame quartet – Future Inns Cabot Circus, Jan 9th
First gig of the New Year was an impressive outfit on paper – Neame, his Phronesis cohort Jasper Hoiby on bass, Jim Hart on vibes and, slightly disappointingly, a sub on drums instead of the great James Maddren. Neame played superbly on his last couple of visits to the club, one with Phronesis, and Hart is unfailingly impressive, so hopes were high for a quality evening’s music.
And so it was, but also curiously underwhelming. Everyone was doing good work, but the overall approach was slightly lacking in appeal, for me. This was polite, college educated jazz, anxious to avoid cliche but in the process also avoiding any straightforward statements of melody. Ditto simple rhythms, most of the time. The result seemed to need quite a lot of concentration, else the mind easily moved somewhere different from where the musicians were.
That’s an interesting sensation as from what they say that is how most jazz strikes most people most of the time, their attention sliding away for lack of purchase on the sound before the music’s qualities have a chance to really sink in. But, having registered that, it was still hard to give the music the attention it perhaps deserved. There was lots of detail, lots of fervid soloing, especially from Hart, but the writing and the group sound were pretty undifferentiated throughout the evening. Piano and vibes is a tricky sound combination to pull off – and only seemed to work here some of the time – though the two similar sounding instruments kept out of each other’s way pretty well. Synth and vibes, which we got once or twice, was an even less effective blend, and a couple of excursions on clarinet from Neame sounded rather similar to each other.
Hoiby, splendid as ever in a couple of solo spots, also seemed pretty subdued, happy to slip into the old role of bassist as keeper of the engine room. In fact, all the other three seemed very happy with Neame’s concept, so I’m left thinking it is my loss – he is, I suppose exploring an area which doesn’t fall easily on my ear. This wasn’t exactly a surprise as their recent CD left much the same impression, but expected that a live hearing would add the usual edge to the music. In the event, that didn’t quite happen. It really seemed quite a long evening…