Review: A right rivetting reed

Jazz: London Saxophonic with Evan Parker; St George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol

Jazz: London Saxophonic with Evan Parker

St George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol

While the venue for this concert pre-dated its principal instrument, the saxophone, by a number of years, together they sounded like a marriage made in heaven. Bass and baritone parps proved suitably fruity, while in quieter moments the long drawn out sighs of tenor, alto and soprano were as subtle as the patterning of cold breath against a windowpane. As for free jazz horn-man Evan Parker - the wild card of the evening - the infinite cycle of notes he produced through circular breathing on his soprano sax sounded like the squeak of rusty axles in a railway yard faraway, and the effect was both strange and wonderful.

Any group of sax-players brave enough to band together to the power of ten and suffer the inevitable copy-lines of "Sax Appeal" and "The Joy of Sax", deserves every break they can get; but the dectet of saxophones plus piano and bass guitar that is London Saxophonic is staggeringly good already. In a first half of Michael Nyman compositions the group propelled the music forwards with an eminently suitable mixture of dry wit and brute force (yet far less harsh than the amplified Nyman Band itself, from which the group borrows a number of players), making two short themes from the soundtrack for the film The Draughtsman's Contract seem even better than one remembered. Two further film pieces, The Infinite Complexity of Christmas, and Outside Looking In, from Carrington, showcased a softer, more Romantic Nyman, with far less "baroque and roll" than usual.

In the second half, the Apollo Saxophone Quartet - a division of the larger band - followed a short piece by Michael Torke with a movement, "Road Rage", from a longer work entitled Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre by the jazz saxophonist Iain Ballamy. A barrel of laughs for a minute or so, with - you guessed it - lots of honking and parping noises, the music was rescued by the RAC-style recovery service of a swift resolution.

Then it was time for Evan Parker, who came on stage, put his mouth to the reed of his sax and started to blow. He was still on the same breath twenty minutes later, with the massed saxes of the band joining in to produce an extraordinary ringing-in-the-ear effect that precipitated a noisy exit from one concert-goer and her group of children. As for the rest of us, we loved it all, especially the ringing in the ears - but listeners to the live recording will have to cope with the sound of heavy footsteps clumping down the stairs across their speakers.

For the finale the whole band, Parker and drummer Tony Orrell re-grouped for two East European folk tunes in which the keening wails of eleven saxes sounded like an Arvo Part choir jamming with the Bulgarian National Assembly of Throat Singers. Yes it was that good.

An album of London Saxophonic playing Michael Nyman is due out this summer on Tring Records.

Phil Johnson

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

    £14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

    Guru Careers: Financial Controller

    £45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

    Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash