You could hear a resonator shiver as Corey Mwamba tapped the bar of the vibraphone, midway through the absorbing second set of the trio’s gig Burdall’s Yard . Knowing that what’s going to happen next is as much a mystery to the trio as it is to the audience is part of the thrill of watching this band at work. The sustain pedal had just collapsed on the vibraphone heightening the sense of adventure and as the speculative tapping, slapping and encouraging huff of air developed into an engaging rhythmic pattern, Dave Kane released a sustained, rich toned and complementary arpeggio from the bass and a spooky little riff had emerged as a fresh idea to work on.
Burdall’s Yard, Bath Spa University’s teaching and performance space for its Performing Arts Department, is a beautifully adapted series of rooms under the causeway by Bath’s London Road. Sprinkled amongst the varied evening programme of theatre, comedy and music is a series of jazz gigs scheduled by Adam Biggs, tutor on the Music Department’s Jazz course, that’s going to be well worth keeping an eye on.
Friday night’s gig had been preceded by a workshop for the students and a couple of them joined the trio at the start of the first set. And then this long standing if sporadically performing trio really got to work. They confound any preconceptions of what freely improvised music might sound like. The concentration is palpable as first one then then another of the band sketch a musical phrase or rhythmic groove to which they all the add. An urgent pulse or a ‘just so’ harmony are never far away. Dave Kane seems to have un-erring ability to land a note underneath a spikey interval from the vibes that both grounds the harmony and gives it a real lift. Josh Blackmore on drums is a phenomenon. His decision’s about when not to play as well as when to fire off a clattering tattoo or settle into a snappy groove make it sound like that’s where the music was always headed. Sometimes there was bit of an African lilt, at others a funky acoustic vibe, at still others swirling textures and moods and then a burst of racing swing. Corey Mwamba said after the gig, reflecting on the fun of playing with the trio, ‘ .. it’s like a conversation where we are finishing each other’s sentences’. That’s what it sounded like too. ‘You can practically hear the smile on their faces’ said Daniel Spicer in a feature for Jazzwise Magazine. You could see it on Friday and the healthy sized audience was joining in.