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Sefrial, The Canteen. Oct 29.

October 31, 2014
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It’s a bit after 10.00 pm, the Canteen is heaving with drinkers, talkers, hangers out – and some listeners – and above the hubbub the band are flying. Matt Brown‘s powerhouse drumming sets the pulse, Greg Cordez – on electric bass for a change – fills out the groove, along with Joe Wilkins on guitar, and Sophie Stockham is delivering a blistering alto sax solo, while tenor-player Jake McMurchie smiles his approval.

They are Sefrial, a quintet named by Stockham after a tune by New York eclectic John Zorn, and they may have only played a few gigs but they have settled in to this music beautifully. Brown and Stockham work together in the excellent Dakhla Brass (see them at the Be-Bop club next week) and this band shares something of Dakhla’s rhythmic drive and catchy hooks. The whole thing is a little looser, though. Grungier, too – Wilkins takes some extrovert and heavily electric solos when he’s not concentrating on the rhythm. The two saxes offer plenty of solo depth, and the compositions, including Sefrial, a moody, Eastern-tinged ballad and self-penned numbers like Little Bittern (I thought at first it was Little Britain, but no…) in which the two saxes play off each other in time-honoured fashion, hounded by howling guitar lines over an insistent groove, give them plenty to work with.

All in all, they have the makings of the next line-up from Bristol’s ever-recombining jazz scene to develop into something distinctive and consistently interesting. We didn’t make it to the end of the second set, an hour or more later – a combination of a weekday night and a venue where, this evening, it takes a lot of manoeuvring to find a tolerable listening spot between the front, where you can hear but at uncomfortably high volume, and the rear, where the audience roar makes it hard to follow the music at all. The Canteen in its night-time guise as Stokes Croft central is a great hang-out but the continual coming and going means it doesn’t always lend itself to more complex music.

Worth looking out for another chance to catch Sefrial in a more sympathetic setting, then. Meanwhile, you can sample their sound here (with Greg on acoustic bass, which also works!).

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