March 3, 2017
Taupe is a colour that's ostensibly beige, but in reality seems to frequently inhabit a close-to-grey zone. Taupe is also the chosen name of this stripling prog-jazz trio from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England. Puzzlingly so, as their compacted, nervous, twitching compositions suggest something brighter, sizzling arc lights or short-circuited flashing. Irony in jazz remains alive. Or is the Taupe output almost as much rock'n'roll in its nature? Despite sharing common concerns with the likes of Roller Trio
or Led Bib
, these three enjoy well-developed stylistic personalities, particularly as they all look around seventeen years young. Unlike most newcomers, Taupe are already born with confidence and the means to attack, rocketing through a sequence of hard, twisting, jagged, jump-cutting pieces, their set refined in the midst of a substantial tour itinerary.
Alto saxophonist Jamie Stockbridge and guitarist Mike Parr Burman have to tread carefully around their ample spread of footpedal electronics, as they heavily contort the expected sounds of their instruments. Drummer Adam Stapleford keeps it straight, although his kit is like unto that of a rock sticksman rather than a jazzer, augmented with extra cymbals and side-snare. Most of the numbers are throttlers, but there are a few shifty shifts down into an ambient abyss, painting impressionistic washes around the cave-walls. During the opening tune, Burman breaks a string in his enthusiasm, so Stockbridge indulges in some amusing banter, and then he and Stapleford improvise an introduction to the second piece. Another example of Taupe's bold approach. Fresh string tautened, Burman eases into the intended follow-up, and the rest of the set is free of any snags, unless these are perversely introduced by the band.
There are prog, post or math rock influences at play (whichever of these categories is triggered), but the end-sound remains determinedly jazzed, loaded with rhythmic trickery and flying fingertips. Stapleford is particularly speedy and sensitive when rattling around his traps, perhaps the most rock-indebted of the threesome. Burman's guitar more regularly suggests a diet of jazz mavericks as hero-mentors. The ultimate root of the Stockbridge stance is probably John Zorn
. Although Taupe don't leave much space for abstract 'soloing,' they've become so immersed in the material, via obvious on-the-road proficiency, that the violent freedom lies in the soaring assurance of their manic riff-delivery.
Dr. K. Sextet
Saint Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel
March 4, 2017
The 2017 Late Music Concert Series opened with a themed performance by the Dr. K. Sextet, from London. This annual season is devoted to new music composition, and is open to elements from the spheres of jazz, rock, folk and electronica. The binding factor for this programme was ostensibly compositions with a narrative thrust, but strangely enough, this frequently meant that a traditional music nature lurked somewhere at the root, an area where storytelling is often central. Many of the programmed pieces were folk songs, elaborated upon by modern composers.
Dr. K. spent most of the evening breaking up into smaller permutations, in order to feed the needs of individual pieces. Their spread includes flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion. The group has been together for eight years now. All six members joined in for a Peter Maxwell Davies arrangement of dances from "The Two Fiddlers," an opera by Storm Kolson. Davies prompted a comedic jape, with sharp switches in pace and structure, heavy with rattled snare drum and slurred violin, playfully humorous in the new music way (i.e. slightly stiff light-heartedness). Sadie Harrison's "Bell Music For Saint Casimir" only required clarinet and piano, with some spacious key-delay on the latter, a miniature with a Lithuanian folk root. The piano was joined by flute for Thomas Simaku's embellishment of an old Albanian-Italian traditional tune, "My Beautiful Morea," billowing lyricism as romantic foreplay. The best work of the evening was Kaija Saariaho's 1990 "Oi Kuu," as Alice Murray's faint cello groans combined with George Sleightholme's bubbling-pot bass clarinet, emitting a low layering of frosty drones and resonant sustains. "The Durham Strike" (Howard Skempton) had solo piano making delicate progressions, considered pauses, emerging with a graceful antelope prance, suddenly curtailed.