Another Friday evening in the back room of The Bear in Hotwells and the visitors are Orphic, a fairly new outfit who’ve sprung up in the fertile soil of the Bristol scene. They’re well known to each other with Pete Judge, on flugel horn this evening, Sophie Stockham on tenor and Matt Brown on drums all veterans of Dahkla Brass. The line-up is completed by Chris Jones on bass and it’s a potent, high energy brew.
The set-list dips into the books of an intriguing range of players with three tunes from South African bass man Johnny Dyani’s album Angolian Cry, a couple of Joshua Redman tunes, something from Freddie Hubbard, a couple from Indian guitarist Amancio d’Silva, all making a hatful of tunes with hooky, declamatory horn riffs, most with a bluesy edge, some with boppish twists others with an African call and response like flavour. It all gets the Orphic twist; irresistible momentum, bustling, shuffling, often Afro tinged grooves, powered by the blood-fizzing combination of Chris Jones and Matt Brown locked together. Brown in particular was like a cauldron: textured and layered rhythms hissing and and spitting ideas and energy.
Bill Evans’ Interplay gave a little insight into why this music had such life and zest. The mazy theme had flugel and tenor in lock step. In Pete Judge’s solo in particular, Jones and Brown were echoing, anticipating and playing off the flugel’s lines, it was more like Judge leading a dance than an ‘out-in-front’ solo. If that was one of the more restrained pieces, the Dyani tunes, Angolian Cry and Blues for Moyake and Hubbard’s Straight Life were rootsy, stomping affairs. It was hard not to imagine them whipping up excitement at a festival from the back of float at times. For Leo Dirch Peterson had a gentler tango-like groove and evoked a glowing solo from Chris Jones, resonant chords from the double bass swelling, buoyed by bustling drums. Unanimity was apt as a title and description of the playing as they roared to climax, Redman’s insistent, riffy theme launching Stockham and Judge into jousting exchanges, surfing Brown’s ever-present propulsive clattering groove.
Orphic are drawing on a rich vein of material and making it their own. They’re out and about in Bristol over the next month or so, and if you spot them on the programme of a festival, be sure to get yourself along.