October Roundup 2: Live at the Bebop Club Satori/ Boalch-Beraha

We’ve dipped into the very tasty Autumn programme of Bristol’s BeBop Club a couple of times over the last few weeks. Firstly to see tenorist Josephine Davies’ trio Satori and then just last Friday, a quartet led by pianist Toby Boalch with the peer-less Brigitte Beraha as the ‘front-line’. Both were rivetingly good gigs.

Josephine Davies / SATORI / Buffalo Studios / Shot by Rob Blackham

I couldn’t help myself. Satori’s publicity shots put me in mind of a dead-pan blog called ‘Jazz musicians standing in front of brick wall’; no further explanations needed, except to say it’s a blog of few words. Satori’s publicity shots definitely deserve a place there. There’s something about the shot that draws the attention however. The music has the same effect in spades. There’s a familiarity to the sound, especially if you’ve spent time with the trios of Joe Henderson or Sonny Rollins. The heft in Davies’ sound and melodic fluency of the improvising make it hard not hear echoes. But there’s a distinctiveness and energy which is all their own and it made for an absorbing evening. They played a good bit of Davies’ original material; a shape-shifting calyso gave way to a gently loping groove or an insistent pulse. Sinuous melodic lines bounced off and seemed to move at different metres, then merge with the pulse. It wasn’t hard to hear what had enthused a Downbeat reviewer who’d given the recent album In the Corners of Clouds a glowing review. Dave Whitford was a delight. With some bass playing alchemic process of rhythmic drive and note choice, he conjured up the impression of a whole band, frequently finding delicious intervals that resonated against the tenor’s melodic weave. It was not the band’s first visit and it’s sure not be the last. If the album is absent from your playlist, get it here

Toby Boalchs latest project, in which he’s teamed up with Brigitte Beraha as well as longstanding sparring partners drumemr Euan Palmer and bass player Nick Jurd, is a collection of settings of poems from an eclectic range of sources, ranging from William Blake, Rudyard Kipling no less as well as Eastern mystics. There was a smattering of wordless vocals and a couple of standards for good measure. As with Davies, it’s was hard not to hear nods to heroes. This time as they dug into Everything I Love, a Cole Porter gem, maybe there was a shimmer of the late great John Taylor in Boalch’s elastic phrasing and choices of the sound to give the harmony. Boalch’s own writing blended rich melancholy tinged harmony with evocative melodies often carrying a folk-ish flavour, frequently set against slightly contrasting, exuberant grooves. Boalch’s playing is fluent and dynamic. In solos, thoughtful exploratory lines build to tumbling, glittering runs and dense chordal passages. Beraha enlivens and lifts any project she’s involved with and her range and the freedom with which she sings really suited this material. This was really lovely, uplifting music and a classy quartet that will hopefully be heard more widely. It was a great evening.

These were just two gigs in a dazzling programme at the BeBop this term. We couldn’t make it to John Law’s Re-Creations for example, which was surely another cracker. There’s more to come. It’s the mighty Sarah Morrow next week (25th October) and a local, on the rise outfit Orphic the week after.

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