If you check out Phelan Burgoyne‘s Bandcamp page for his just released debut as a leader Unquiet Quiet, the words offered as tags are jazz, improvisation, London (so far unsurprising) and rubato. The last one might raise an eyebrow, given this is a drummer led trio playing Burgoyne’s compositions. It’s a little signal however, that listening and on the spot alchemy are part of the brew.
And so it turned out to be when I dropped into the Vortex last Friday for the launch gig. Burgoyne’s co-alchemists were Martin Speake and Rob Luft supplying thoughtful probing alto and layers of guitar sound respectively. The unannounced pieces crept in with maybe a squeal from the alto, a distant rattle or a ripple from the guitar. There was always development and a strong hook to anchor the piece invariably emerged. A smear of cymbals announced the first tune, then the simplest of themes, a repeating off-kilter motif launched the exploration. Speake’s alto swirled and cried over the wash and bubble of guitar that swelled to a climax before the plaintive motif returned. The drums were all colour in the midst of the collective steady momentum.
That set the tone. The loose free-wheeling vibe was a thread through the set. Burgoyne switched to sticks and there was a more insistent clatter, giant distorting chords and clangs from the guitar before sparring with alto, trading astringent phrases. A moody introspective theme blurred into a gentle waltz. A bright melodic tone poem delivered, yes of course – rubato, was pushed along by skittering drums and shadowed by ghostly guitar lines before morphing into a quietly insistent groove. A throbbing, skipping, clackety pulse from drums lifted the energy and a snaking theme surfed along.
This was open, interactive music from a trio in tune with each other insisting on being listened to as intensely as the musicians listened to each other and cast its spell on me. It was an absorbing evening’s music.