The Jazz Café, Camden London
An excellent triple bill on a £12.50 ticket (plus £2 booking fee) got me out on a Thursday night to a venue I don’t like very much. Why don’t I like it? Virtually no seating unless you pay extra to get a table in the upstairs restaurant. Expensive bar with poor choice of beverages.
First up was a half-hour unaccompanied set by harpist Alina Bzhezhinska, playing some Alice Coltrane (Blue Nile) and Dorothy Ashby (Action Line) plus three of her own (I think) pieces. subtle looping and effects were applied but not to the detriment of the music. Pin-drop quiet from the audience, which was a very unusual thing at this venue. They loved it.
After about 15 minutes setup (removing the full-size harp from a stage full of other equipment and instruments took a while)and rearrangement, trombonist Rosie Turton and her band (Johanna Burnheart – electric violin, Maria Chiaro Argirò – electric piano, Twm Dylan – double bass, Jake Long – drums and guest Ben Hayes – synths & effects) started their half-hour set consisting mainly of material from her Rosie’s 5ive album. No idea of titles except Orange Moon was played. A slightly rowdier reception from the audience and some fine stuff played. The combination of trombone, violin and piano works surprisingly well. Some subtle use of effects on the violin occasionally gave the illusion of a trumpet and sax playing in unison with the ‘bone.
After a rather longer break of 25 minutes, while various items were removed and others set up, Yazz Ahmed’s new Electric Dreams quartet came on. Yazz on trumpet, flugelhorn and electronics, Danish guitarist Samuel Hällkvist on Strat and electronics, Jason Singh “vocal sculpture” and electronics and Rod Youngs on drums and percussion. They played for about an hour and a quarter and all of the music played was spontaneous group improvisation, described by Yazz as having conversations. Sometimes it was loud and dissonant, sometimes quieter and almost ambient sometimes very danceable. Just about everything apart from the drums was heavily treated, lots of looping, applied effects and distortion. I thought about it at the time and again after and I suppose I’d describe it as tribal metalised free-jazz-hop with some middle eastern harmonic touches. Beautiful playing from Yazz and Samuel and both tremendous power and subtlety from Rod. Most amazing of all was Jason Singh’s mixture of vocalese, noise, beatboxing and that thing Indian percussionists do where they sing intricate hand drum patterns, all taken through an array of effects he was controlling. The rowdiness of the audience’s reaction increased, some left. I enjoyed it immensely but I’m not sure it could work on record. Very much a live experience. They are currently touring.
Mainly Camden hipster creative types, by the looks. 20s-40s the main age group. Fairly well-heeled or “economically unconcerned”.
Usually, I find the Jazz Café audience rather too prone to chattering over the performances but after Alina Bzhezhinska stunned them into silence they were remarkably well-behaved.
It made me think..
I would have liked to see this in a venue where I didn’t have to stand all the time. London has some amazing music on offer and you don’t have to spend a fortune to find good new stuff.