John Law’s Congregation, BeBop Club, Friday 17th February

John Law is a man in constant motion.  On a gig there is an often dazzling flow of ideas img_2103from the keyboard and piano. There’s also a restless forward momentum to the various projects he puts together. After a stream of acoustic trio albums  he popped up with a band he called Boink!,  three years ago now, playing with electronics alongside the more familiar acoustic jazz format. We got to see them early on as ideas were taking shape.  The current line-up of his band Congregation he brought to BeBop Club on Friday marks a shift up-wards of gears. The samples, synths and pedals were all in the mix and the most recent addition James Mainwaring of Roller Trio fame, had a bewildering array of pedals for his saxes and guitar.  There was a sense of them all now fully  integrated with the music and the formidable improvising powers of the band to compelling effect. The quartet was completed by the dazzlingly virtuosic Ashley John Long and the relentlessly grooving Billy Weir on drums.

The repertoire drew on Law’s extensive back catalogue with by turns hypnotically pulsing soundscapes filled with elctronic squeals and loops and then blistering soloing and exchanges within the band.  An early stand-out was And Them.  It started as a skipping little groove with a catchy melodic hook from synth, doubled by the sax that could almost have been an early 80s  electro-pop anthem. Then the mood thickened and suddenly a img_2104rampant exchange between just piano and drums with Law’s glittering, sinuous runs and two handed flurries hurling layers of rhythm at  Weir which he returned with interest. A shimmering, free, dialogue between Long and Mainwaring, dissolved into a take on Naima with an insistent drone from keys and bass underpinning hoarse, soulful cries from the sax.   I Sink Therefore I Swam raised the temperature further. A frantic, mazy pattern in Laws’s left hand, doubled by bass, bubbled under a dark theme. The soloing was incendiary, especially from Long. Scampering runs were a prelude to driving, wedge like chords on the bass building a volcanic momentum.  Each of the quartet had moments like this.  On Through a Glass Darkly the band laid down a shifting carpet of sound while Mainwaring found almost vocal, gutteral cries and squalls from the tenor to raise hairs on the neck.  They played out on Giant Stabs, a rollicking Samba and plenty of Coltrane references to leave everyone on a high.  A vintage night at the BeBop  Club




Welsh Delights: A CD, a gig and Autumn Preview Pt 3 – Jones/ Long, Jazz at Dempseys

The upstairs room at Dempseys in Cardiff has been a hub of Welsh jazz for decades including during the previous incarnation as the Four Bars Inn. A gallery of all the previous guests would match most long-standing clubs’ “wow, they played here?” impact.  It remains a place for Cardiff and Welsh bands as well as roster of the finest touring bands (many drawn by the piano and warm welcome of promoters Alistair McMurchie and Brenda O’Brien).

I popped over in late July to catch Dave Jones’ trio with Ashley John Long on bass and Greg Evans on drums. It turned out to be a double treat as I picked up a copy of the duo album Postcript  Jones and Long have recently recorded, soon to be available from Jones’ website.   DaveJonesAshley The CD has repaid repeated listens hovering, like the gig, around standards territory but spiced with originals from both partners as well as their distinctive playing. Jones is a fluent, rhythmically driving and inventive player as at home with jazz as more folk and rock inflected pieces. Ashley has reputation for his extraordinary technique in both the contemporary classical and jazz world  (he’s even published a web-site documenting some of it as part of doctoral research), but concentrating on that would be to miss his flair as an improviser and writer. His contributions inspire Jones to lyrical and soaring solos especially on Zebedee, a deceptively simple and attractive bossa. Jones’ own Four on Three, a free wheeling waltz and Postcript , more of a rocky groover, both have plenty of piano and bass locked together and Long stretching out and showing the extent of his melodic imagination.   There were tasters of the duo in the gig, but the addition of Evans on drums gave them a further boost.

The twice a week series of gigs at Dempseys is a remarkable institution, always quality and like all such ventures, dependent on the regular audience and the commitment of its curators Alistair and Brenda. They have excelled themselves for their Autumn programme.

Take a look at the next couple of weeks:

Tuesday September 6th – Michael Janisch (bass) Paul Booth (sax) Ryan Quigley (trumpet) (piano tbc but maybe Steve Hamilton who’s on the album subject ot his tour with Billy Cobham) and then the one and only Clarence Penn (drums)

Wednesday September 7th – Kristian Borring Quartet Kristian (Guitar) Arthur Lea (piano) Mick Coady (bass) and Jon Scott (drums). This Quartet is not to be missed. Check it out.

Tuesday September 13th – Henrik Jensen’s ‘FOLLWED BY THIRTEEN’ This thrilling international band comprising of Henrik (bass) Antre Canniere (trumpet) Esben Tjalve (piano) and Antonio Fusco (drums) will be perfoming music from thier 2nd Album, which is launched in September, ‘BLACKWATER’   Yet another honour that these musicians com to Jazz at Dempsey’s

Wednesday Sept 14th – Swiss Jazz Trio VEIN – Michael Arbenz (Piano) Thomas Lahns (Bass) Florian Arbenz (Drums) What a feast of music these guys will give to you.

Is that Clarence Penn on Tuesday on drums? Yes it is!  Most of these bands are on tour, but not going every where, so if near Cardiff, jazz lovers may do well to find their way to Cardiff.  The London gig for the Ryan Quigly band has Geoff Keezer on piano… will he travelling west?  There’s only one way to find out!

Later in the month Corrie Dick’s tour touches down there and Tori Freestones’ trio.  And that’s just September. In between, there’s the usual quality from the more local scene.