All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

218

Louis Moholo-Moholo Quintet: London, UK, March 17, 2011

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Louis Moholo-Moholo Quintet
The Vortex
London, UK
March 17, 2011

As George the besuited MC said in his introduction, when you saw the lineup you knew this was not one to miss. And the packed audience at north London's Vortex was testament to the fact that his view was widely shared. Even though South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo remains a frequent visitor to London since relocating to his homeland on a permanent basis, his visits are still something special. Instead of his regular unit, tonight's personnel had more the appearance of a blowing band, with both saxophone giant Paul Dunmall on tenor, and trombonist Alan Tomlinson, who is more strongly associated with the improvising scene. One holdover from the unit was upcoming pianist Alexander Hawkins, and he proved the link between a free for all and Moholo-Moholo's normal song-based fare.

As it was, the opening installment set a template with Hawkins and Moholo-Moholo laying down the framework from the drummer's repertory—an expansive unison with a South African kwela feel—over which the horns ran riot in boundless colloquy. Anchoring everyone with a steady pulse was bassist Ollie Brice, on his first ever gig with Moholo-Moholo, while Tomlinson plunged his hand into the bell of his horn as an impromptu mute to color his effervescent lows and Dunmall probed on muscular tenor.

Now 70, Moholo-Moholo nonetheless set the pace, matching formidable passion with percussive wisdom without ever totally going for broke. It was definitely the South African's group, subtly guided and directed by him, though in close communion with Hawkins. The pair maintained eye contact for much of the time, feeding off each other's cues. As the pianist crescendoed on the first number, Moholo-Moholo crashed on his cymbals, prompting Hawkins to switch his tack and plunge into the relentless vamp of Jason Yarde's "The Tag" from his album An Open Letter To My Wife Mpumi (Ogun, 2009). Dunmall picked up the riff as the initial phrase of a searching oration, soon to be joined by the trombonist in a garrulous counterpoint which loosely recalled a rumbustious South African vocal choir.

Even though there was a fair degree of unfettered expression, it wasn't all upper case bold. Partway through the first piece, Moholo-Moholo stilled the ensemble for a quiet pointillist section, scratching his brushes on his drum heads, encouraging more timbral exploration. In response Hawkins' plucked inside the Vortex Steinway, and Tomlinson partly dismantled his horn before emitting blurts through the pipework, while Brice unsheathed his bow for some sonorous scraping. At length the sounds became more sustained, as Tomlinson muttered on his muted trombone like someone mildly annoyed with the turn of events, reluctant to make a fuss but unable to keep it to himself.

Gradually a blues sonority emerged, fueled by Dunmall's smoking tenor, Moholo-Moholo even playing the turnaround at one point, burning slowly with just intermittent flares. Brice and Hawkins kept close track of the drummer's trajectory, but Dunmall was in full fire-breathing mode, punctuating his skittering, serpentine lines with astonishing guttural exclamations which raised the hairs on the back of the neck. However, even such feats of musicianship weren't sufficient to ensure that he remained the sole focus of the listener's attention.

His fellow musicians also needed to give Tomlinson a wide berth: he was an exuberant presence, commanding the performance area with sweeping gestures magnified by his trombone slide at full extension, first pointed at the ceiling, then stage left, before then panning right, spraying puckish bluster and braying smears. Though a sometime member of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and veteran of Peter Brötzmann's 'Alarm' collective, the London-based Mancunian often displayed a comic sensibility. Here it was largely kept in check, except for his occasional attempts to tickle the noses of the front row with his slide, and one brief solo where he chuntered, hummed and popped some tubing from his trombone, all without missing a beat, causing a guffaw from Dunmall. A date with the Dutch master of mayhem, drummer Han Bennink, would be a perfect match.

Although Hawkins took on the responsibility of generating structure with repeated incantation-like figures, there was also space for even more energetic pianistics. At one stage he erupted, unleashing his inner Cecil Taylor in a fantastic piano trio passage, complete with spidery runs capped with Tayloresque motifs at the end of his lines. Later among his melodic fragmentations, it sounded as if he were interpolating "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" into a thunderous mash up.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read European Jazz Conference 2018 Live Reviews
European Jazz Conference 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 25, 2018
Read The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018 Live Reviews
The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY Live Reviews
Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY
by Christine Connallon
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read "Gabrielle Stravelli at The 75 Club" Live Reviews Gabrielle Stravelli at The 75 Club
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 21, 2017
Read "Novara Jazz 2018" Live Reviews Novara Jazz 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: June 30, 2018
Read "Jazzahead! 2018" Live Reviews Jazzahead! 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: May 3, 2018
Read "Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery" Live Reviews Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery
by Jonathan Manning
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "The Dixie Dregs at Scottish Rite Auditorium" Live Reviews The Dixie Dregs at Scottish Rite Auditorium
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 17, 2018