Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

300

Polar Bear at Ronnie Scott's, London

Frederick Bernas By

Sign in to view read count
Polar Bear
Ronnie Scott's
London, England
April 8, 2008

London's famous jazz club has been going through troubled times. In December 2007 its artistic director resigned amidst criticism that the venue's booking policy was veering away from the mainstream, hard jazz it is known for.

Considering such complaints, it was surprising to see Polar Bear in the listings. Led by drummer Sebastian Rochford, the group has recently established itself as a trailblazer on the UK's progressive jazz scene. Rochford is joined by a stellar array of musicians. The front line consists of saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Pete Wareham (also leader of Acoustic Ladyland), supported by electronics guru Leafcutter John and bassist Tom Herbert, formerly of Acoustic Ladyland and a long-time associate of Rochford and Wareham.

The musical relationship between this core trio drives the band forward on its journey into the realms of what many people see as the future of jazz. Intricate, interwoven compositions come as standard, with the two tenor saxophones moving between moments of complementing one another with rich countermelodies and fiercely duelling each other to a backdrop of frenzied polyrhythms and blasts of seemingly random noise. Such a group of talented players on the same wavelength, completely in the element and bringing the best out in each other, is gripping to witness.

However, much of the loud chaos of Polar Bear's Bristol gig in May 2007 was sadly not replicated. Most tunes took on a familiar feel—darkly cinematic, brooding—but a sense of increased sobriety, or palatability, may have been stipulated by the club. Lockheart and Wareham frequently stepped off stage as metaphorical dust settled. The band's collective emphasis shifted to accentuating the fine subtleties of Rochford's compositions, with occasional moments of sudden crescendo that disrupted the mood of the jazz diners. Not a bad performance, but the atmosphere was very subdued in relation to previous experience.

It is a shame that one of the country's most exciting groups may have had to tone itself down at a venue which should encourage the opposite. If outside pressure is not the explanation, this move simply represents a dramatic change in the band's dynamic. Perhaps all will become clear at the Colston Hall in Bristol on April 20, when Polar Bear returns, and with the upcoming album on Tin Angel Records.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon Live Reviews NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 22, 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 David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club Live Reviews David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center Live Reviews Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center
by Geoff Anderson
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read "Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner" Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read "Little Feat at the Paramount" Live Reviews Little Feat at the Paramount
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 10, 2017
Read "Arturo Sandoval At Yoshi's Oakland" Live Reviews Arturo Sandoval At Yoshi's Oakland
by Walter Atkins
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "Tony Bennett at Birmingham Symphony Hall" Live Reviews Tony Bennett at Birmingham Symphony Hall
by David Burke
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery" Live Reviews Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: December 10, 2017