Live From Birmingham: Thomas Stone, Takahiro Kawaguchi, Percy Pursglove & Martin Carthy

Live From Birmingham: Thomas Stone, Takahiro Kawaguchi, Percy Pursglove & Martin Carthy
Martin Longley By

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Thomas Stone/Takahiro Kawaguchi
August 9, 2018

Centrala is yet another one of those individualist art joints in the post-industrial Digbeth area of Birmingham, balancing audio and visual forms. They have a regular diet of evening performances, usually of a more unusual bent. Coming up from London, Thomas Stone was joined by opening act Takahiro Kawaguchi, both of these dudes dedicated to the bleed between gigging and performance art.

Kawaguchi had an arrangement of what looked like old-fashioned car horns, with a predilection for on/off footpedal activations, buzzing then not buzzing. Whirring and humming also, as it slowly became apparent that he was inflating a voluminous polythene sack, whilst producing multiple high tones. How did he get these tones to creep around the walls, spatially thrown? This was some kind of measured horn-parp symphony, at very high frequencies. The bag got bigger, and Kawaguchi's cellphone slid off its surface, clacking to the floor. Was this a deliberate act? Then, to climax, he let the air out slowly. This piece definitely required its visual in-the-room experience, to help the listener embrace its entirety.

Stone's set came across as more of a direct gig-experience. Most shows would, following Kawaguchi. He was armed with a contrabassoon, a snare drum, and a suitcase, flanked by a pair of small speakers. A recording of what sounded like electric bass underpinned the process of Stone's horn travelling from its core sound to a cello-like mournfulness, making strategic pauses for consideration. Vibrations were caused on the snare-head, triggered by an e-bow-type device, raised in volume, prompting reverberant pulses, and mixing with the contrabassoon honey. Eventually, Stone captured himself for looping, and then interfered with the results, glitching and crackling. He operated in the hinterland between composed sound and free-form matter, again making the visual process an integral part of the performance. Sitting within a gallery, the select-but-astute audience inhabited a virtual live installation, and a gig, simultaneously.

Percy Pursglove & The Fat Chops Big Band
Moseley All-Services Club
September 9, 2018

Fat Chops Big Band continue to present a monthly Sunday lunchtime gig at the Moseley All- Services Club, always inviting a special guest to provide the climactic stretch for each of their two sets. Together for over two decades, they are surely one of the mightiest big bands in the UK, but perhaps not féted as much as they deserve. Still in the ranks, as ever, are saxophonist Chris Bowden, now concentrating on tenor rather than his old alto, plus bassist Ben Markland and drummer Neil Bullock, the latter being the mighty Buddy Rich-styled stoker (or perhaps some of you might prefer Gene Krupa) of this already storming Fat aggregation. John Ruddick senior and junior remain in the trumpet section, the latter charged with running the Chops. Junior sister Jo Ruddick plays keyboards, and Mike Adlington (trumpet) and Richard Foote (trombone) are also included in the ranks.

The Chops slid into a Bill Holman arrangement of "Malagueña," a Cuban number, as popularised by Stan Kenton, delivering a dramatic low end bullishness, with slicing trumpet attacks, Bullock steaming through near-drum'n'bass beats. Bowden's solo was brief but powerful, overblowing to a swift climax. When gig guest Percy Pursglove joined them, he sizzled through Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma," straight into his first trumpet solo following a short introduction (Pursglove is also an equally proficient bassman, but was here in his horn capacity). A high note splendour bloomed, then they slowed into a Bobby Shew arrangement of "Body And Soul," in a Latin style. The band cut to complete silence, as Pursglove's flugelhorn ascended.

For the second set, Cole Porter's "Get Out Of Town" (arranged by former Chops saxophonist Martin Williams) featured a striding solo from the new Fat 'boner Foote, which was excellent apart from being too close to the microphone (the band should sometimes turn down the microphone volume a touch, as it can become particularly oppressive down at the front tables). Andy Shillingford shone on soprano saxophone during "Last Season" (Maria Schneider), and then Pursglove blasted back with "Joy Spring" (Clifford Brown, arranged by Shew), producing a high flugel cascade, his tone powdery, but with full attack. Thanking the audience profusely, Pursglove quipped that "it would just be a bunch of weirdos playing notes in a room together," without their enthusiastic presence.

Martin Carthy
The Kitchen Garden Café
September 12, 2018


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