1 March 2020

Live Review: Nye Banfield at New Generation Jazz

New Generation Jazz: Nye Banfield

The Verdict, Brighton

Friday 31st January, 2020

With influences from Wayne Shorter to Rachmaninoff, and playing experience from bebop to hip hop, young saxophonist leader and composer Nye Banfield brought his exciting band of forward-looking musicians for the last pre-Brexit and first New Generation Jazz gig of the current decade to The Verdict on the last Friday of January. The ex-Trinity Laban scholar from South East London launched his first self-produced recording in July 2018, and already has successful gigs behind him at many of the capital’s major venues, including The Vortex and Camden’s Jazz Cafe. The band plays a compelling brand of advanced hard bop with a mixture of the leader’s own compositions and classics from the golden era. Despite the weather, ‘House Full’ signs were in evidence long before showtime in the now iconic jazz cellar under Brighton’s Edward Street. The original song titles are drawn from many of the leader’s life experiences. Tunes such as Pocket Tissue Blues (inspired by their bassist), Bellarom Gold (dedicated to a supermarket brand of coffee), and Navidi (a tribute to Welsh Rugby star Josh Navidi) give an idea of the breadth of the inspiration that the leader is prepared to draw from. Quirky song titles aside this is a quintet that exudes sheer quality throughout. The leader himself is a fluid improviser, creative and cliché-free in all tempos, the broad brush of his sound being the ideal foil the stiletto-like thrusts of his frontline partner, the much-lauded trumpet man Mark Kavuma. This musician is fast becoming a Verdict favourite following the staggering set he played with his own band The Banger Factory back in October last year. Rhythm sections at this level of music are far more than that. Royal Academy of Music graduate Rupert Cox, who cut his teeth with NYJO (The National Youth Jazz Orchestra) is an exceptionally gifted pianist with an improvising ability well above the norm and the musical awareness to play precisely the right supporting role to the frontline horns when required. Bass man Hamish Knockles-Moore has a full, rounded sound and a flamboyant presence on stage, along with the ability to support his solos with a wordless vocal technique, very much in line with the legendary Slam Stewart back in the Charlie Parker era. Dynamic drummer, and leader of his own band Pitchfork, Ewan Moore is a key player in the overall sound of the quintet and played two brilliant solos on the night and clearly showed the influence of both Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, the giants who have inspired him. 

As well as a great set of originals, the enthusiastic gathering were treated to three covers from the songbooks of great trumpet players of the past. Naturally these were a platform for Mark Kavuma who stamped his own engaging and individual style on Donald Byrd’s Free Form, the Lee Morgan tune Tom Cat and most significantly the brilliant Frelon Brun from the classic Miles Davis 1968 album Filles de Kilimanjaro. This one was played in such a refreshing and dynamic way by the whole band that even Miles himself may very well have approved and as we well know, the great man did not approve of very much! With so much great music to listen to and enjoy, it must have escaped the notice of most that the witching hour of 11pm was fast approaching. In fact the time to leave the EU fittingly arrived during the soulful ballad of a much demanded encore before a highly satisfied and well-entertained audience trudged back upstairs into the still rainy night to find that nothing much had really changed at all.

Jim Burlong

Photo: Anya Arnold

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