1 November 2018

Live Review: Jazz In The Round at Emergence Festival, Hastings

Jean Toussaint, Chiminyo, Arthur O’Hara Trio

Jazz In The Round at Emergence Festival, St. Mary in the Castle, Hastings

Saturday 29th September, 2018


Jazz In The Round promoters Chris Phillips and Jez Nelson must have scoured the South in their search for suitably-shaped venues to accommodate their expanding vision; St Mary’s In The Rock, a semi-circular Regency church hollowed out of the Hastings cliffs, fits the bill perfectly as a setting for this festival celebrating emerging UK jazz. There’s a respectful and attentive crowd of native Hastings bohos and down-from-London types, a live artist capturing the event in acrylic and canvas, and the customary earnestly pedagogical introduction from Phillips and Nelson, as the Arthur O’Hara Trio kick off proceedings. Their stripped-back sound is energetic and angular, but with a firm grip on melody – edging close to post-rock, thanks to O’Hara’s retro sounding Precision bass, forceful melodic riffing, and an overall sense of what one might call exultant melancholy common to the genre. Chelsea Carmichael’s tenor sax is full-voiced and accurate, and her control of dynamics sets the pace. The tunes are spacious and deceptively simple but the bare bones reveal a carefully assembled framework on which the trio hang compositions that are actually ambitious in emotional scope. Oasis lets drummer Ed Harley demonstrate his chops, and builds up a real head of steam. 

Tim Doyle, aka Chiminyo, follows with a solo performance combining junglist drumming with triggered electronics to create a one-man rave. His ingeniously programmed, dubstep flavoured compositions also show off his more-than-decent skills as a drummer and draw warm applause and even spontaneous outbreaks of dancing.

Elder statesman Toussaint is here with a band of young proteges, recounting his own experience as a tyro of Art Blakey – ‘We learned by doing – if you make a mistake, make it loud, and you won’t do it again!’ he recalls. The acoustic of the room magnifies his already enormous sound, now burnished into a deep, glorious purr, as Daniel Casimir on bass and Ben Brown on drums set up a pulsing ostinato that shifts gear into a magisterial modal workout. Mark Kavuma on trumpet looks impossibly, cartoonishly hip in his stylish threads, his tone brassy and declamatory enough to match the leader’s own. Vera Cruz, by Milton Nascimento via Wayne Shorter, features a smouldering solo by Kavuma – if Toussaint’s playing contains elements of Shorter’s, there are surely echoes of early 70s Miles in the way Kavuma spits out shreds of sound and long, slashing notes that cut into the silence as Brown brings the drums to a polyrhythmic simmer. Toussaint takes the band up to the mountaintop and gently back down again.

There are features for pianist Albert Palau, with a fast-paced 7-count rendition of Beatrice demonstrating his seamless incorporation of language from the contemporary classical repertoire and awesome lightness of touch, and Casimir has a wonderfully creative solo on Round Midnight, before Toussaint leads the band into a joyous closing vamp that causes further outbreaks of dancing. Jazz In The Round are leading the charge of new British jazz; tonight’s wonderfully eclectic, uniformly excellent bill outlines their vision; this festival is richly deserving of everyone’s support and should surely return next year. 


Eddie Myer

(Photo of Jean Toussaint's Young Lions Band by Lisa Wormsley)

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