The People Band and Vortex Outdoors– Vortex 22nd Sept 2012
Payne was in his elementno musician looks quite as happy as Payne on stage, particularly when he plays free. From manic, breathtaking solos to screaming into the microphone at one point, he embodied free form as a player. His playing had anger, and periods of silence were interspersed with deliciously monstrous, gleeful over blowing on tenor sax. The People Band consists entirely of consummate musicians who took riffs in turns as solos came and went; at one moment, three players were playing in sublime harmony, before one lifted the tune and played with it, supported by the rest, before returning to the harmonies. The reaction of the audience was that it was not sure how to react, which made it all the more interesting.
Charlie Hart played subdued electric bass, underpinning the rest of the band and carrying the melodies, such as they were, with aplomb. Day provided sensitive drums and Adam Hart provided keyboards which filled in any discernible gaps. Jolly played bass clarinet and saxophones, switching from one to the other, showing both the range of his talents and the instruments. Of the entire band, he looked to be enjoying himself the most, grinning (or grimacing!) nearly all the time. The People Band proved that good musicians, playing in tune with each other and loving the music can create something special and the 40 years since the group came on the scene vanished in the blink of an eye.
In the hiatus between acts, the square began to fill with incomers and, as usual at such events, people began to mingle. The Vortex does what it does well and there were enough staff to ensure queues were kept short, all of which meant we had more time to mingle, which is half the point of an event like this.
I met Day briefly afterwards. Payne reminded him I had interviewed him for one of my columns earlier in the year and a warm handshake followed as recognition dawned. Payne was surrounded by people congratulating him and was very chatty. We soon discussed Hampstead, a Blockhead piece I had recently written and a bit of music. You cannot help but get drawn in by the warmth (and the bear hugs) with which people greet you and the warmth is palpable between players as well. I was introduced to Alan Wilkinson of FLimFLam (Ryan's Bar) and others too numerous to mention.
The next act was Electric Jalaba, a band with a completely different style. Bringing world music to The Vortex, Jalana played with energy and a constant deep thrumming box bass, played by vocalist Simo Lagnawi, pervaded the tunes. Lively, and with Lagnawi covering the stage in leaps and bounds, within a very short time, the group had people dancing, from small children upwards. Truly original and full of intensity Jalaba finished its set to enthusiastic cheers and clapping, and the square began to fill.
The contrasts in music experienced in just a short time at The Vortex underpinned what was a celebratory event. I spoke to Wilkinson for awhile, though he was not playing at the event (he is, however, taking part in the London Jazz Festival, November 9-18. The diversity of people was immense, as I met Jake from Jamaica (via Leytonstone), Mike and Kate from Lewisham, and a guy who told me he was doing a PhD thesis. I discovered that Payne lived in the same part of Hampstead as I for a while at a different time, one girl was doing a 1500km sponsored bike ride and I heard other snippets about the diversity of lives drawn together by the common bind of great jazz music. Jazz attracts all kinds of peoples from all backgrounds, ages and cultures. We are all connected and jazz provides the link. We all originated, perhaps, from the same small speck of dust from which the universe was created and given that fact, we are all connected and so anything can happen. Sometimes, with music, you feel the sense of a spirit guiding us all, whether you are onstage or in the audience. We are all very different but interlinked through music, and jazz of any genre offers many doors through which the spirit may enter.
From what I saw, The Vortex needs little in the way of change. What they offer is as diverse as the people they attract. Venues like this bring the world of jazz to people. The music is only the start of many things and the link which keeps many of us coming back to gigs but there is so much more to it than this, and as The Vortex turns silver, whether it offers us myths, legends and originals from the 1960s or new acts from the 2010s, it has done a good job and I, for one, hope it continues to do so.