259

Chris Batchelor & Rob Townsend: London meets Finland at Jyv

Matthew Wuethrich By

Sign in to view read count
After the relaxed polish of Charlie Mariano’s set, British horn players Rob Townsend and Chris Batchelor decided to give the audience a wake-up call. Together with three Finnish players-pianist Samuli Mikkonen, bassist Pekka Törmänen, and drummer Joonas Leppänen-they mixed up a dense brew of floating ambience, driving rhythms, focused solos and raw electronics. They generated a sweeping, electro-acoustic cloud of melody, sound and rhythm, as all the pieces segued into each other. At times their set was messy and loose-limbed but the result satisfied with its improvised feel and spirit of adventure.

The first note of the set, a brash electronic loop, made the audience and the musicians sit up and take notice. From there they moved into a laid-back swing that became “Arthur Blythe’s “Slidin’ Through”. After a floating transition, Don Cherry’s “Symphony for Improvisers” emerged, with Townsend taking a turn on soprano sax and Batchelor running his trumpet through an electronic mute. Mikkonen added snatches of melody, helping to create a tune that was more mood, sound and pulse than song.

Their set also featured original compositions by the Batchelor and Townsend, all of which alternated dark themes with more muscular grooves seemingly inspired by Miles Davis’s 70s work. Leppänen kept the pulse swelling up and down, while Törmänen supplied solid, insistent bass figures.

In addition to the pointed thematic statements on their horns, Batchelor and Townsend injected various sonic effects into the mix. Chanting tape loops, drones, and echo all helped to create a multi-layered sound.

With this sound they suggested many moods and directions simultaneously. Mikkonen’s introspective piano solos and intricate, fragmented comping balanced with the churning rhythm section and the echoing, processed ruminations of Batchelor and Townsend.

The unceasing electronic experimentation did sometimes make the music seem sloppy, and Törmänen had some sound problems with his bass that prevented it from being the thick low-end it should have. But keep in mind this group had only a handful of rehearsals, and their lack of rehearsal contributed to the adventurous, suspenseful nature of the music. They should be commended for their risk-taking.

As a kind of come-down after this sound exploration, they rendered Bill Evan’s “Children’s Play Song” in a lullaby-like manner, sending the audience home feeling peaceful, even cleansed. The performance was all about finding balance: between dense sonic outbursts and more lyrical musings; between electronic and acoustic sound; and between emotional expression and cerebral examination. Such balancing acts are hard to pull off, but on this night the group succeeded, and in the process refreshed the music’s and the listeners’ spirit, even if only for awhile.


Shop

More Articles

Read "Here's That Rainy Day by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke" Anatomy of a Standard Here's That Rainy Day by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke
by Tish Oney
Published: August 24, 2016
Read "Clouds and Stormy Nights: A New Pair from QFTF" Multiple Reviews Clouds and Stormy Nights: A New Pair from QFTF
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 19, 2016
Read "Hentoff helped pave way for jazz journalism’s acceptance" Opinion/Editorial Hentoff helped pave way for jazz journalism’s acceptance
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "WOMAD 2016" Live Reviews WOMAD 2016
by Martin Longley
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "Man of the World: The Peter Green Story" DVD/Film Reviews Man of the World: The Peter Green Story
by Jim Trageser
Published: February 11, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!