Live Review: Mark Kavuma at The Verdict
New Generation Jazz: Mark Kavuma & The Banger Factory
The Verdict, Brighton
Friday 25th October, 2019
It was hard bop twenty first century style when Ugandan born trumpet star Mark Kavuma brought his highly impressive sextet to The Verdict’s monthly New Generation Jazz gig on the last Friday of October. Known as The Banger Factory, the title of their recent album of the same name, which was launched at London’s Jazz Cafe on 18th September. Having spent time with Jazz Jamaica and Jean Toussaint’s Young Lions, among others, the leader is another of the fastest rising stars on today’s UK contemporary scene. Highly praised in a recent edition of DownBeat magazine in the United States, he has an assured, finely crafted and personal approach to the instrument with overtones of golden era greats Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. High profile gigs to date include guesting with the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis and supporting Wayne Shorter in 2016 at the Barbican. Front line compatriot, tenor saxophonist Mussinghi Brian Edwards whose former bands include Jazz Jamaica and Gary Crosby’s Jazz Warriors is another musician in receipt of critical acclaim. Regretfully this charismatic player met with a car accident on the way to the gig, but arrived in the interval to blow up a veritable storm during the second set. The classically trained Artie Zaitz from Poland is a guitarist of unique talents whose mesmerising runs had such an impact on another packed Verdict crowd that they cheered his incredible playing from the rooftops at every opportunity. Pianist Deschanel Gordon, paying his third visit to the venue this season is, as Verdict regulars will know, a percussive player of immense stature with a seemingly unending stream of ideas. Even by his heady standards the performance he gave, in a band ideal for his approach, was simply jaw dropping. An unexpected band member was bass man and ex Trinity Laban graduate Fergus Ireland. A leader and composer in his own right, plus original member of the ever popular Kansas Smitty’s House Band, he tied together the whole band and proved to be a stunning soloist. Driving things along from the drum kit was the young Luca Caruso, another leader himself and currently studying at The Royal Academy of Music.
There have been some great gigs during this season of New Generation Jazz where the audience has really got behind the musicians, but such was the sheer virtuosity and audience connection from this band that things went up at least a couple of notches on the night. The overall atmosphere was not unlike live recordings from 52nd Street in the Fifties or Birdland when Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers were in residence. From the leader’s three lip bursting solos on the opener Blue Monk to the piano magic on the original Dear K D, and guitar pyrotechnics of Brother James things were held at a stunning level for the whole of the first set. A new dimension was immediately apparent in part two when Mussinghi Brian Edwards joined the fray for the spine chilling ensemble theme To A Cedar Tree, a tune dedicated to the American pianist Cedar Walton. The saxophonist soon took centre stage for an album track Mussinghi, written for him by the leader. His lengthy solo containing many quotes from well known jazz standards along with numerous tempo changes driving the level of audience enthusiasm to even greater heights. Things continued to move at breakneck speed until the time came for one of the great ballads. Polka Dots and Moonbeams that was written back in 1940 by the brilliant composing duo of Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. This is a tune that has been a staple of the jazz repertoire for many years and played in numerous styles by legions of well known musicians. Here we had stunning solos by piano, trumpet and guitar, all with passages of logical improvisation but never straying too far from the original theme. By this time the Verdict faithful were ready and primed for one more trip into the heady world of uptempo hard bop. The band did not disappoint with an uproarious outing on their signature tune The Banger Factory. It had been another night of great jazz played before an ever more enthusiastic New Generation Jazz audience.
Mark Kavuma, trumpet; Mussinghi Brian Edwards, tenor sax; Deschanel Gordon, piano; Artie Zaitz, guitar; Fergus Ireland, bass; Luca Caruso, drums.
Photos by Anya Arnold.