There are still a couple of dates left on Zoetic’s tour as I write this, one in Manchester and another at King’s Place in London. If their visit to Bristol Beacon last week is a guide, catching one these dates will a highlight of the gig-going year. The music casts its net wide for idiom and influence. The approach of the ensemble, led by trumpeter Chris Batchelor forges a distinctive sound and mood; quietly spellbinding, unfailingly uplifting.
The line-up of Chris, Margrit Halser on viola, Steve Watts on bass, John Paricelli on guitar and Paul Clarvis on tabla and percussion play without a PA, just small amps on stage or acoustically. At the Beacon, they produced a beautifully balanced sound, every nuance, from each instrument crystal clear. And they exploited the potential to its full. No need to shout when you can be heard. Rhythm and groove were ever present; a quietly pulsating calypso got us started; the hint of an Arabic skirl on Telling The Tale; guitar, pattering finger tips on drum and a bass figure locked, conjuring up African polyrythmns on Shanzu. Huckster, half-way through the first set, was like sotto voce stadium rock. A rocky throbbing vamp, distorting swaggering guitar solo, followed by the drum solo somehow produced by Clarvis on bongo. Artful writing and arranging created the feeling of a larger group. Viola and trumpet blending beautifully on intricate themes, bass and trumpet left exposed, to glow, guitar and viola another texture. Time stood still for a moment as Batchelor etched out the melody of Brazilian singer songwriter Edu Lobo’s Mariana Mariana, over just gently flowing guitar accompaniment and bass. A moment of luminous, fragile beauty.
The reception was heartfelt as the band took a bow. It was an enriching and absorbing evening.