A musical cocktail of incredible diversity

First Night Django Bates, John Taylor, and John Surman The Space London
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The Independent Online
FOR THE past month, the Space, a converted Presbyterian chapel in London's increasingly Blade Runner-like Docklands, has run a simple, ingenious concert series arranged by the musician Martin Speake.

On successive Fridays, three master musicians have each played solo sets in this friendly, intimate arts centre. Last night, at the final, sold- out gig, all three played together, creating a sonic cocktail of phenomenal diversity.

The saxophonist John Surman and the pianist John Taylor have performed together a great deal over the years, but the wild card element of Django Bates' electronic keyboards created a non-stop parade of musical treats, ranging from the break-neck stride of Taylor's opening number through to introspective chamber jazz, electronic noise, an odd bit of spoken narrative (Django) and some classic British jazz chord sequences and loping bass riffs. The bass parts were often played by Surman's deliciously sour bass clarinet.

At one point, as Taylor's soloed cleverly over one such pattern while Bates played mad drum breaks from his keyboard sampler, I had a sudden vision of one of those Aardman Plasticine animations, full of aliens and strange objects as the trio morphed sonically through dozen of guises.

The evening was full ofsurprises, and as well as the fine soloing and group improvisation, there were the inevitable bits that nearly broke down into purposeless noodling.

One such moment was rescued when Bates introduced a played loop of percussion and organ noises - saved by the human sample.

But if some pieces were over-ambitious and risky and pushed their techniques and creativity to the edge, that was partly the point.

There is music whose whole appeal is based on its unwavering constancy, and there is the music whose very quality is in its capacity to re-invent itself in real time, confounding and delighting the attentive ear.

That music is jazz, of course - a music of such harmonic sophistication, rhythmic complexity, emotional maturity and (if you are lucky) melodic directness, that three players such as Surman, Taylor and Bates can perform together with very little preparation and make nearly minted, wholly contemporary music of stunning beauty and extreme excitement.

John L Walters