Review and pictures by John Watson
CBSO Centre, Birmingham UK
“Jazz can save the world – right?”
Drummer Andrew Bain posed the question to the audience at his Jazzlines concert. Some of us
were nodding hopefully, and he added: “Or maybe it’s just nice to listen to.”
Well, it’s that too, I think we can all agree. The importance of hope, especiallly in these worrying times, is central to Bain’s musical philosophy. He’s clearly a deep thinker, and as a composer he is skilled at conveying his concepts in sound. He’s also a heck of a drummer with a tremendous technical range – from subtle to immensely powerful – but, most importantly in my view, he’s also a great listener. Like one of his heroes, Jack DeJohnette, his interaction with his fellow musicans raises everyone’s playing to greater heights, and this requires intense listening rather than (as is the case with some drummers) being absorbed in their own musical world.
Listening and Hope are two of the movements of his seven-movement suite Embodied Hope, the others being Surprise, Accompaniment, Practice, Responsibility and Trust. It’s inspired by a book on improvising, The Fierce Urgency of Now (by Daniel Fischlin and Ajay Heble).
And in his current UK/US quartet, Bain has musicians who are indeed well worth listening to: pianist George Colligan, tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Michael Janisch. All four players have worked in New York, and Irabagon is still based there. While studying and performing in the Big Apple, Bain appeared with artists including Wynton Marsalis and Randy Brecker, while Colligan has worked with a great range of names including DeJohnette and Larry Grenadier. Minnesota-born Janisch has long been based in the UK, running Whirlwind Records and leading his own excellent band. Irabagon is a fast-rising star whose playing seamlessly bridges the worlds of free improvising and straight-ahead blowing.
The quartet opened with swirling improvised sounds, as a spacious chord sequence slowly developed, moving into a fiercely percussive bass solo from Janisch and then a skittering theme played at a tremendous pace, before moving into a slower, muscular, noble melody. Bain’s work then moved through many moods – from a funky march in tribute to Buddy Bolden to melodically flowing, powerfully underpinned themes from swing to rocky Latin. The introduction to Hope, with a single stabbing note from the saxophone before the main theme developed, was a tremendous highlight – with a furiously flowing, inspired piano solo from Colligan – as was Listening, featuring a magnificent solo from Irabagon.
This was a concert full of riches. The quartet had recorded the work the previous day, and the album will be well-worth watching out for.
Categories: Live review