All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

2

Scarborough Jazz Festival: Scarborough, UK, September 28-30, 2012

Duncan Heining By

Sign in to view read count
Scarborough Jazz Festival
Scarborough, UK
September, 28-30, 2012
Now in its tenth year, Scarborough Jazz Festival is a fixture in the UK's jazz calendar. Situated on the east coast of North Yorkshire, Scarborough's heyday was in the Victorian era, when coaches would pull up outside hotels like The Royal or The Crown to disgorge wealthy patrons wanting to take the waters in the local spa. Unlike other British spa towns such as Bath, Cheltenham and Leamington, Scarborough has lost the gloss that wealth and affluence brought to the town. Yet it has its own slightly down-at-heel charm and nothing can detract from the beauty of its setting around two bays.
These days the Spa is an entertainment complex, home to the usual eclectic mix of performances from ballet and classical music to tribute bands and standup comedians. At the end of each summer, however, these make way for a three day festival of excellent jazz, all extremely well-organized by the local jazz club and Festival Director, Mike Gordon.

Some regional festivals specialize in styles—big bands, trad or mainstream, for example. Scarborough's a little different. It's generalist in approach and, if it leans towards the modern-mainstream, it still likes to dip a toe or two in more adventurous waters. On this year's final afternoon, two newish bands offered just such a hint of adventure, leading a willing audience into, what was for some, unchartered territory.

Rhythmica owes its origins to bassist Gary Crosby's Tomorrow's Warriors project in South London. Its music occupies that kind of Branford Marsalis/Terence Blanchard space that owes more than a little to mid- to late-sixties Blue Note, yet it also has something of its own. Their usual saxophonist, Zimbabwean Zem Audu, was absent on this occasion, his place taken admirably by Binker Golding. In fact, the intriguing thing was that as well as Golding, the band was using a new bassist in Rob Astley and yet their presence changed Rhythmica's sound not one beat. Of course, in managing change, it helped to have a pianist of the caliber of Peter Edwards, but then he was just the most immediately striking in a quintet of quite outstanding young musicians. In fact, it seemed that, if anything, Rhythmica has developed an even greater sense of identity since its eponymous 2010 release on Dune Records.

In a way, it's hard to say quite what it is that made the group's music seem so fresh and new. After all, no jazz fan reared on hard bop could find this music difficult. It swung. It had drive and confidence and there were little occasional hints towards abstraction. Yet it felt like more than just a case of an older form being revisited. It was partly due to the role played by the rhythm section. Rob Astley's bass sounded quite percussive in the mix—not just an anchor but a definite and defining pulse. And the way he linked with Andy Chapman's bass drum brought a Siamese twin to mind—two hearts but effectively one conjoined body. That hard backbeat within a still flowing and subtle rhythm section provided an enormously strong platform for the soloist and that, in turn, allowed for a powerful sense of drama and dramatic tension in Rythmica's music.

Rhythmica is at its best when eschewing standards or a more easy descent into Marsalis/Young Lions territory, though its take on Herbie Hancock's "The Sorcerer" was strikingly dark in mood. Its "Mr. J.J." was a case in point—beautifully executed but missing its own personal stamp. There is a Rhythmica way of doing things and the group needs to have the confidence to follow its own lead. Peter Edwards' "Solace" and "Triple Threat—The Build" and "Blind Man's Bluff," the latter with its echoes of old and present-day New Orleans, gave a better idea of a personal, expressive style in the process of forming. At its best, it was almost theatrical, and there was a palpable sense of excitement when the group's excellent trumpeter, Mark Crown, or very impressive saxophonist, Goldings, came to the mike.

But it was a style in formation, which indeed it should be at this point. There was, perhaps, too great a reliance on well-trodden paths and in its writing not enough attention to thematic development, but these things will come in their own time. The progress Rhythmica has already made since its debut shows how quickly it's getting there.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters at Forest Hills Stadium Live Reviews
Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters at Forest...
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 24, 2018
Read Danny Green Trio at the Lily Pad Live Reviews
Danny Green Trio at the Lily Pad
by Doug Hall
Published: June 23, 2018
Read Terence Blanchard and E-Collective at Ardmore Music Hall Live Reviews
Terence Blanchard and E-Collective at Ardmore Music Hall
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Broken Shadows at Icehouse Live Reviews
Broken Shadows at Icehouse
by Samuel Stroup
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at Central Park SummerStage Live Reviews
Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at...
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: June 13, 2018
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at the Regattabar Jazz Club" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at the Regattabar Jazz Club
by Nat Seelen
Published: December 27, 2017
Read "Fred Frith's solo performance at the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra's Concert Hall" Live Reviews Fred Frith's solo performance at the Macedonian...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 23, 2018
Read "Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano" Live Reviews Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: January 13, 2018
Read "Nik Bärtsch's Ronin at (Le) Poisson Rouge" Live Reviews Nik Bärtsch's Ronin at (Le) Poisson Rouge
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 11, 2018
Read "Instant Composers Pool at The MAC" Live Reviews Instant Composers Pool at The MAC
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 8, 2017