John Law’s Boink! Burdall’s Yard, Bath, Friday 10th January

I reviewed this gig for Listomania – brilliant listings site run by Charley Dunlapp – they arranged the ticket and it is of course posted there as well.

“Ruins true refuge long last towards which so many false time out of mind.” declaimed John Law’s recorded voice.  The apparently nonsensical words, but flowing rhythm of Samuel Beckett’s short story Lessness continued to bubble away as the liveJohn Law established first a groovy ostinato figure with his left hand using a Rhodes like organ sound, then added a jaunty flowing melody supported by Jon Lloyd’s soprano saxophone and stroked, distorted chords from the guitar of Rob Palmer. Mesmerizing visuals flowed across a screen behind the band, manipulated by Patrick Dunn as the interactions between the band members ebbed and flowed.  Boink! Were getting into their stride in their second set at Bath Spa University’s performance space in Burdall’s Yard.

For anyone familiar with the leader’s dazzling virtuosity and fluent creativity at the piano, most often at the centre of an acoustic jazz trio in recent years, Boink! is a sharp change of gear.  Billed by Law as his electronic project, the vibe, in between episodes of ambient washes of synths and meditative phrases from saxes, is rolling grooves with a rocky edge and deceptive twists layered with resonant, quirky and frequently beautiful melody. Drummer Lloyd Haines was unflaggingly inventive in embellishing and morphing the looping phrases, often in odd time signatures.  It was all underpinned by Law’s insistent left hand, sometimes providing throbbing metronomic pulses, sometimes more overtly funky phrases and occasionally more jazzy walking bass lines.  Jon Lloyd’s bass clarinet frequently doubled or shadowed the phrases adding a darker edge and nodding at Miles Davis’ early electric era.

There was excitement and energy thought-out both sets, supplied by some fiery soloing. On ‘When Planets Collide’ Lloyd’s soprano sax built phrase upon phrase over a crescendo of guitar and drums as the band responded to his emotional playing; on ‘Lessness’ Law really let rip, reeling out rippling runs and flowing melodic lines; on ‘So fast so Good’ Lloyd Haines provided one of the most compelling moments of the evening, received enthusiastically by the respectable crowd, with a drum solo that seemed to combine all the elements of the racing theme with a percussion like kit solo on top.

The project showed its newness at times, with moments of hesitancy and anxious instructions barked from the driving seat by composer Law as the band negotiated the shifts and changes of the almost all original pieces,  but there was plenty here to revel in. The three students from Bath Spa who got to join the band briefly in the first set certainly showed their mettle. The band have a forthcoming national tour that will surely loosen things up. They are at the BeBop Club in Bristol in February as part of that tour.

This emerging series of gigs at Burdall’s Yard is certainly proving a welcome addition to the Bath scene,  bringing really top class musicians to  town.



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