There are still not enough venues in London to accommodate all of the capital’s jazz artists. While long established venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, the Vortex, 606, Café Oto and Pizza Express, to name but some, are stalwart institutions, both musicians – and audiences, for that matter – need more options. While Soho and Dalston are recognized as places where a gig can be found on about any day of the week, there are many parts of the Big Smoke that are, for the most part, not lit up by the sound of a soloist and rhythm section, horns, keys and strings.
However, just last week there were two excellent gigs to be enjoyed north of the river in Haringey, one of the city’s poorest boroughs that nonetheless has dynamic, if unrecognized talents.
The Karamel club in Wood Green has been presenting jazz for several years and it maintained high standards with an excellent showing by Loz Speyer’s Time Zone. This is the trumpeter-composer’s ensemble that explores Afro-Cuban traditions, a firm understanding of which Speyer has acquired through sojourns and study in the city of Santiago on the Caribbean island over a number of years. Such deep immersion in the vocabulary of son and rumba have enabled him to develop music that has strong Latin resonances without being a generic take on Latin jazz, and his well drilled sextet mostly has a strong clave feel without the 3-2 patterns being constantly hammered out on the trademark wooden sticks. Alto saxophonist Martin Hathaway’s use of bass clarinet adds a novel texture to the music as does guitarist Stuart Hall who often plays the montuno lines usually produced by a piano or tres, which gives the music a mild flavour of Marc Ribot’s enjoyable Los Cubanos Postizos project.
Some of the material is taken from the excellent 2006 album Crossing The Line, and the enduring freshness of the music makes the point that Speyer has a body of work that has stood the test of time.
A few days later there was an even more original production at All Hallow’s church in Bruce Grove, which was the venue of the latest installment of Tottenham Soundscapes. Producer Verity Lane put together a resoundingly eclectic bill in her bid to present music unconstrained by genre, and the combination of two excellent trios, Quest and Barrel and spoken word artist Abe Gibson was an astute one. While Quest present an enjoyable form of contemporary classical music, complete with incisive composition and execution from pianist Filipe Sousa, cellist Tara Franks and violinist Preetha Narayanan, Barrel proves a compelling proposition due to the way the players stretch and subvert the vocabulary of their instruments and interact with unbridled spontaneity. Violinist Alison Blunt, viola player Ivor Kallin and cellist Hannah Marshall won many plaudits for their 2011album Gratuitous Abuse, and this relatively short set shows exactly why. Working within mercurial, mutable forms, both harmonically and rhythmically, the musicians are grippingly adept at pushing what is traditionally an intimate ‘chamber’ sound towards focused tonal assault, as the higher pitches they produce often approximate electric textures, whirring like theremins made of wood rather than metal. They also fashion dense, sombre chords – by way of fingers clamped right across the bridge of their instruments – that bring a deliciously brooding resonance to the set. The finale features all artists on stage in an improvised piece that conveys the essential community spirit of Tottenham Soundscapes.
Kevin Le Gendre