Babelfish, The Front Room at Queen ELizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Friday 29th March

A mini-blog to capture my recollection of a sunny Friday at London’s Southbank; Bablefish on the engagingly named Front Room stage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and a large appreciative crowd for an absorbing and top class set. The quartet revolves around the partnership of singer Brigitte Beraha and pianist Barry Green. The huge rich sound of this ensemble comes from some great writing and arranging and from the seeming unerring instinct of these consummate musicians to to do just the right thing at the right moment to create that sound. They touch all sorts of reference points with African and Latin rythmns alternating with propulsive grooves, driving swing, moody introspective episodes underpinned by rich harmony that shifts and twists in unexpected ways.  Beraha’s composition Fatty Tuna summed a lot of this up (an episodic piece with most of those elements). There was a moment when a scintillating rythmn, with a devious line on piano locking perfectly with an off kilter bass line supported the wordless spiky theme delivered by Beraha. It held the chatty post-work crowd rapt; I realised that percussionists extraordinaire Paul Clarvis was only using a tambourine, Barry was playing with one hand on the piano – everyone doing just the right thing and no more to create that huge sound. This can have been no easy pick-up gig for bass player Sam Lssserson deputising for Chris Laurence but he sounded like he did it every day. Of course there was plenty of scope of fizzing and fluent soloing from everyone, but I left with the thought ‘what a great band’ in my mind. An album coming out on Barry’s own Moletone soon will be well worth checking out and keep the eyes peeled for a tour in the Autumn.

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