Thursday, 26 August 2010

Kairos 4tet

Kairos 4tet have fast been establishing themselves as a prominent voice on the UK jazz scene and their recent packed out performance at The Vortex proves that their profile is growing (and rightly so).

Performing a collection of material from their debut album, Kairos Moment, and the occasional new offering, the band featured Jon Scott (drums), Jasper Høiby (bass), new member Ivo Neame (piano) and leader Adam Waldmann (saxophones).

Waldmann’s solos were considered and performed with a poise reminiscent of Julian Arguelles. Often leading with spacious gestures, the more modal tunes saw him weaving in and out with chromatic patterns and repeated cells that provoked an excited but measured response from the rhythm section.

An energetic improviser, Neame’s skill as an accompanist is assured with the freer moments between him and Waldmann being especially beautiful.

The group is conceptually strong with Waldmann’s writing suiting his improvising voice perfectly The grooves were deceptive, driven by Scott who expertly complemented Høiby’s fervent presence. New ballad Maybe Next Year began with an ancient calm from which emerged a lyrical folk inflected theme; an accessible style that underpinned a lot of the writing.

With upcoming appearances at Brecon Jazz Festival and The Forge, catch this new line-up while it’s hot.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Dave Morecroft / Leafcutter John / Gina Southgate

On the 21st July, The Vortex audience was treated to a most unusal event by Pianist Dave Morecroft (World Service Project) laptop whiz Leafcutter John and artist Gina Southgate. Southgate’s is a name that should be familiar to any Vortex attendee as it is her depictions of musicians and past gigs that adorn the walls of the club. A night of collaboration was to follow between the worlds of acoustic sound, electronic manipulation and abstract art and the audience, although small, was clearly excited by the prospect.

Ominous photos were taken of the three pristine canvases as various jugs, pots and spray bottles of colour were carried forward to the stage to the right of which were a collection of sundries including a barbeque grill and various lengths of plastic tube.

The first improvisation began enthusiastically with Morecroft disappearing inside the piano to pick, strum and slap whilst Southgate slashed and ripped back the plastic wrapping from the canvas with clamouring purpose. Leafcutter John was always alert and was quick to regurgitate manipulated sounds of the ensuing ruckus. Mostly abstract, the soundscapes never lingered too long and coalesced at times into pulsing trance like grooves.

The group dynamic took a twist with a more conventional instrumental with Morecroft’s original composition Underneath. Chanting and soaring like Satie, the music was lifted further by Leafcutter John’s textural presence. Southgate quietly captured the duet on a small canvas using a roller.

Southgate’s movements throughout the set were captivating as she applied paint in bold strokes, printed, sprayed, smeared and clattered about the stage with her various equipment (although sometimes a little gratuitously). At the times when her actions and the live sounds would naturally and coincide, magic was made.

The set was truly of the moment with each improvisation yielding its own painting. Revisiting an earlier canvas during the final number saw the additional scrapes and adherences give way to a dynamic picture that seemed to capture the mood of evening perfectly.

The performance was engaging throughout with each member of the unconventional trio acting with constant conviction, an impressive feat when considering that this was their first venture together. With the motivation and chosen stimulus of each member changing at various moments, the link between the audible and the visual developed as the set progressed. It was witnessing this creative process that was most exciting and assured the audience that they were witnessing something special.

There are no plans as yet to show the paintings produced so interested parties should ensure their attendance at the next gig, should there be one. I certainly hope so.


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Vijay Iyer Trio 8th July 2010-07-13

The 7th & 8th July saw The Vortex play host to two piano trios namely Richard Fairhurst’s Triptych and the recently crowned Jazz Journalist Association 2010 Musician of the Year, Vijay Iyer in trio with Stefan Crump (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums).

Promoting their new album, Amicus, Triptych features American drummer Chris Vatalaro and, for the evening at least, bassist Riaan Vosloo filling in for band regular Jasper Høiby. The music was texturally nimble with both Vosloo and Vatalaro sympathising with every change of mood lead by Farihurst whose lines were delivered with an engaging purpose and unfaltering interest. The piano was present throughout and could have been forgiven if it were to lay out on occasion however with the sidemen perfectly complementing Fairhurst’s moments of inspired lyricism and angular aggression, the band dynamic did not suffer.

Farihurst’s solo piano interludes were reminiscent of John Taylor and buffered the compositions well. The introduction to Dense Fur was introspective and filmic in character and had one imagining a stark, icy landscape. This was most likely due the title conjuring the image of a polar bear in my minds eye (so I won’t pretend this is what it was actually about)!

The music captured moments of Mehldau, John Taylor, EST and Avishai Cohen and was accessibly melodic and intelligently composed placing the album firmly in my “to buy” list.

The headliners proved they were a band not to be missed with their set of “old stuff in new ways [and] new stuff in old ways”, as Iyer put it. The set began with a series of segued tunes that showcased a conversational approach can only develop from playing together over many years with the trio seamlessly moving between collective prevalence and considered solos. Varying wildly in texture and focus the band were drawing the most from each other and themselves and exploited the trio format its full potential.

Iyer’s presence was bold yet accommodating with moments of dark brooding, cathartic block harmony and fearless line playing. Crump’s solos were clear and engaging with strident pizzicato and scraping bow work separating the character of each whilst Gilmore was making the drums speak with a feel that made every new groove as satisfying as the last.

Never afraid to throw in the occasional popular tune, the arrangement of Human Nature had a sense of urgency whilst preserving its accessible lyricism and had both hardened jazz fan and occasional gig goer bobbing their heads approvingly.

The music was always carefully balanced; the mark of a trio that truly know how to play together. When busy the music was uncluttered, when intense it was controlled. It was complex and probing without being pretentious and was performed with a conviction that assured the audience that every note was meant.

Iyer will return to the Vortex alone to perform solo later in the year.

TJL (Tom Leaper)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Vortex Jazz Club - July 2010 Podcast

The Vortex is delighted to launch a new monthly podcast featuring the best of the forthcoming month's programme. We provide a platform for the artists themselves to discuss and evaluate the creative impetus behind their music. Samples of their work and a monthly gig guide also feature.

This month The Vortex talks to Vijay Iyer about the various strands of creative activity coursing through his trio project.

Jair-Rohm Parker Wells discusses the artistic narratives of both "The Albert Ayler Life Celebration!" and the music of sonic experimentalist John Kameel Farah.

We also feature Lucy Railton, curator of Kammer Klang - a new series exploring the boundary of contemporary classical and freely improvised music.

Musical extracts and a round up July's other highlights also feature.

Produced and presented by Chris Jack

The Vortex

Latest tracks by The Vortex

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Seb Rochford/Shabaka Hutchings/Kit Downes/Tom Herbert - 11.03.09

Confidence to revisit the tradition dovetailed with a stance that heralds the future of the music. The quartet, comprising musicians known for challenging set parameters, brought this energy and attitude to a respectful and intrepid performance.

Sketches of the neo-bop classic, “Confirmation”, raised the curtain. Fragile statements echoing the main theme were suffused by pianist, Kit Downes’ elegant chordal flourishes. Drummer, Seb Rochford’s brittle rhythmic fills and percussive textures complimented this effect with double bassist, Neil Charles’ melodic forms drawing attention towards the points of greatest harmonic tension. With lightly decorated melodic phrases tenor saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings propelled the quartet to groove on a spirited bop swing. The sound segued into an abstract feel ushering in a subtle rallentando which provided the context for ruminations on the central theme by Hutchings, now on alto clarinet. He loosely pulled the theme in beguiling rhythmic and melodic directions as the rhythm section brewed a gentle hymn-like mid-low tempo swing.

Original compositions provided equally fertile material for the group to develop their acoustic portrait. Downes introduced a tune of “no name” with beautiful harmonic layers which spilled onto the sonic landscape with grace and subtlety. Atmospheric cymbal effects evoked a nebulous environment for Hutchings, on clarinet, to reside in and pursue pensive melodic lines while Charles’ bubbling bass phrases made perceptive harmonic illuminations. Rochford stripped the music down to its raw original conception with sparse, uneasy percussive textures and melodic empathy. Hutchings’ repetitive melodic patterns scaled the harmonic dimensions of the composition building tension in its wake. It provided a melodic pillar off which disjointed harmonic and rhythmic contributions from the rhythm section coherently took the group into avant-garde territory. Charles’ a cappella bass solo sensitively channelled the melodic energy into tones of harmonic intrigue.

The trepidation felt by contemporary musicians towards public performances of traditional compositions was cast off and almost ridiculed by this quartet. They proved their musical integrity and the possibility of continual progression within familiar frames of reference.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Vortex Music Market, 22.02.09

The first Vortex music market took place on Sunday 22 February. There were stands from Babel shop, 33 Records and Czech Music Distributors, giving a good cross-section for a first time. Of course it would have been good to have had more labels and so on, but certainly it seemed to generate a lot of discussion amongst us about the state of the world, as it relates to jazz!
Of additional interest were 3 boxes of CDs which the Vortex has inherited over the years. Promos, and some private donations. All these are available for £2 with the money going straight into the Vortex coffers. Quite a range quality wise, as one might expect. In fact, one visitor found an album (by Norwegian group Oslo 13 including a young Nils Petter Molvaer and Jon Balke) that he has been unable to get hold of anywhere. So it shows that it's always worth nosing around.
The next one will be held on 22 March, probably downstairs in the bar because upstairs is being used.
Remember. Anyone wanting to display can contact the club or me.