A cycling sequence of ringing chords, sax and trumpet in full flight, wordless vocals weaving in, out and over, an effortless groove from the bass and churning drums building the excitement: it was an exhilarating musical tumult as Views reached a climax towards the end of Moonlight Saving Time’s first set of the Bristol launch of their album Meeting at Night. The Bristol based band have been getting deserved exposure, including national radio play, since the official release in the autumn and the Hen and Chicken’s upstairs room was packed for the first gig of the 2016 season.
The band’s distinctive sound is a potent brew of jazzily melodic, gliding lines with occasional folk-like inflections; artfully crafted shifting harmony; never over-stated but propulsive and snappy grooves. The arrangements make the most of the cocktail of timbres and pitch in the line-up. This is a collective enterprise. Emily Wright’s clear toned, supple vocals were frequently in the foreground carrying lyrics, invariably personal and reflective, but then became another instrument blending beautifully with Nick Malcolm’s. trumpet in wordless swoops and flights. The jigsaw of rhythms and harmony from Dale Hambridge on keys, Will Harris on bass and Mark Whitlam behind the kit locked it all together.
In this band of leaders and composers there was plenty of scope for individual personalities to make their presence felt. After the flowing grooves of Clouds, Silence is Here breathed more easily and Dale Hambridge gave his expressive, fluent touch at the piano full rein. On this and the playful, joyfully lilting Arthur’s Dance Nick Malcolm flung out by turns lyrical and biting trumpet solos adding citric zest to the sophisticated palette of sound. There were ‘just so’ changes of pace and mood that caught the attention, like leaving Will Harris’ bass to state a groove, imply a melody and a chord all at once whilst letting the space breath – little moments of magic
If the regular ensemble have visibly developed an easy confidence over the last three years or so, the addition of saxophonist Jason Yarde for the evening seemed to step everything up a gear. From his first solo on Clouds, the forceful, fluid exploration of the harmony; song like declamatory phrases and then burning intensity as momentum built, all served to get everyone grinning and nodding. The rest of the band responded in kind. This would have a great gig without the addition of Yarde, as it was it made for a real treat to start the year. Moonlight Saving Time are going from strength to strength.