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Acoustic Ladyland: Live at The Spitz

Chris May By

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Acoustic Ladyland Live at The Spitz
London
May 14, 2005

By 9.00pm—fully two hours before Acoustic Ladyland hit the stage, which they would do like an attack formation of B52s carrying armed love warheads (that's slash and burn amplification, off-the-meter energy levels, and a big throbbing gumbo of rock riffs, punk attitude and jazz improv)—the throng of people hoping, somehow, to get past the "Sold Out" sign and into the Spitz's funky and friendly second-floor performance space in a converted East End warehouse was almost down to street level.


Even if you had a ticket it took almost ten minutes to negotiate your way through the crowd and up the stairs. Once inside, the room was rammed shoulder to shoulder with the passionately partisan, twenty/thirtysomething, free jazz meets grindcore, downtown tribe that are making Acoustic Ladyland their house band. The excited anticipation surrounding tonight's performances of material from the quartet's new CD, Last Chance Disco, was of an intensity more usually surrounding a premier division football match than a jazz performance.

The gig itself was a visceral experience of a degree unlike any other in the jazz world today. Saxophonist/leader Peter Wareham comes on like an oldtime bar-walking honking 'n' screaming R&B tenor man who's built Coltrane, Ayler and David S. Ware into the act. Sebastian Rochford is simply the most exciting drummer in jazz and beyond today. His thrilling and brilliantly intuitive playing puts drums and drummers back on a high pedestal they haven't enjoyed since the swing era. Tom Cawley on keyboards and Tom Herbert on bass guitar crunch out the kind of high testosterone riffs which Led Zeppelin would have been proud of, with a wild abandon which brings Hendrix's most lasciviously inspired moments to mind.

Most of tonight's tunes were from Last Chance Disco and standouts included furious readings of "Deckchair," "Remember," "High Heel Blues" and "Of You." Most tunes lasted just about 4 minutes, like they do on the album, and their cumulative multi-orgasmic effect is giddily intoxicating and simultaneously liberating. Is it jazz? Well, who cares really, because it's music that'll get you to heaven and back in style. It's not jazz as we've previously known it, Jim, and that's for sure, and if we're lucky it's going to take us and the music to places we don't even know about yet.

So far, though rumours are stretching out nationally and even internationally, Acoustic Ladyland—like most of their colleagues in the F-IRE musicians' collective—have been a primarily London phenomenon. Now, with Proper Music distributing releases on F-IRE's own label (including Jonathan Bratoeff, on whose elegant and spacey new album Between Lines Wareham and Rochford contribute very different and very beautiful performances, and Ingrid Laubrock), and the empathetic and resourceful Babel label recording other F-IRE artists (notably Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear), that may change.

Acoustic Ladyland themselves have a string of UK and European dates promoting Last Chance Disco over the next couple of months and—if you're very fortunate—they may be coming to a town or festival near you soon. They are, truly, a thing of wonder.

Visit Acoustic Ladyland on the web.

Photo caption: Acoustic Ladyland (l-r): Sebastian Rochford, drums; Tom Herbert, bass; Peter Wareham, saxophones; Tom Cawley, keyboards.

Photo Credit
Johanna Ruebel

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