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Live From Old York: Laura Jurd, Annie Whitehead, Brooks Williams & Koshka

Live From Old York: Laura Jurd, Annie Whitehead, Brooks Williams & Koshka
Martin Longley By

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Laura Jurd's Dinosaur
National Centre For Early Music
November 11, 2016

Dinosaur are one of the UK's fastest rising new bands, although their recent re-naming hides a few years of history as the Laura Jurd Quartet. The London foursome still look even younger than their actual ages, thus qualifying as fully fresh-faced. Trumpeter Jurd's music (for she is the sole composer) is considerably older in its countenance, with much of its vocabulary reaching back to the electrified early-1970s sound of Miles Davis, re-configured via a more recent approach to this sonic palette. Jurd also plays a small keyboard, sometimes at the same time as she's blowing horn, her parts tending towards the robo-tinkling, thin end of the aural wedge. Additionally, she's responsible for some of the most nagging melodies, on her weebling keys, cheesily profound, a childlike Moondog-gy tone in tow.

Jurd's trumpet solos rise up out of a more mainline jazz tradition, crystal clear and sharply delivered. It's Elliot Galvin who takes the core keyboard role, his solos and themes more elaborately dwelling within the expected realms. The band invariably change tack when both key-operators are flying in together, adopting a vocabulary that's as much rock or electronic as jazz-orientated. Miles phrases abound in some of the themes, but sometimes exuded as a South African township variant. The third number arrives and Dinosaur's starting to cook, with "Underdog," as Galvin tears out a solo with a brutal edge. Jurd maintains a blistering flow, into a slugging blues creation, with some sharply clipped riffing. The extended "Primordial" is a heightened, vigorous version, when compared to that which appears on Dinosaur's debut album.

The Annie Whitehead Quartet
National Centre For Early Music
November 20, 2016

This is a band that's been playing together for around 25 years, and longer between some of its members. Trombonist Annie Whitehead prefers this unchanging plateau, as she's a believer in the ongoing rapport that develops between longtime bandmates and friends. Joining her for this debut York appearance are Steve Lodder (piano/keyboards), Jennifer Maidman (electric bass) and Liam Genockey (drums). The latter is unamplified, apart from his bass drum, so the volume is kept down to a reasonable level that settles well in this converted church environment. Except that perhaps his three cohorts are turned up a touch too loud, rendering the drums, rather disconcertingly, as the quietest instrument. This is only a small criticism, as the ears have a canny way of adapting under such circumstances, and your scribe is indeed sitting just in front of the left hand speakers, smallish though they are...

A large part of Whitehead's early years on the scene were spent being influenced by London's South African settlers, eventually leading to a place in Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath. Understandably, this township vibration still resonates strongly in her chosen repertoire. The set opened with fellow trombonist Mosa Jonas Gwangwa's "Hamba Ngiyeza," with Lodder igniting almost immediately during his first solo of the evening. He's burning up repeatedly during the next few numbers, running an abstract race at the top end of the piano keys, jackknifing sideways across Genockey's limber time. Lodder's angular, spiky clusters are at odds with the joyous bounce of the first few tunes. Catching Genockey's eye, the pair are locked in a rhythmic feat of acrobatics, stopping and starting, then switching the groove emphasis spontaneously. Whitehead and Maidman are playing well, but they aren't quite hooked into this energy wave. Genockey shuffles and skips with his organically dampened rotations, rolling precise patterns around his skins, shifting accents as he runs. Whitehead and Lodder are sensitised to these rhythm-shunts, responding in accord, with paired percussive parts.

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