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...


The Comet Is Coming at Black Box

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
The Comet Is Coming
Black Box
18th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
Belfast, N.Ireland
May 3, 2017

The Comet Is Coming knows how to make an entrance. Even the electronic sci-fi effects that kick-started its Black Box concert like some futuristic fanfare was loud enough to send vibrations through every pore of the body. It was a portent of the unrelentingly powerful sonic waves that King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings), Danalogue The Conqueror (Dan Leavers) and Betamax Killer (Maxwell Hallett ) would unleash on the audience, in this, one of the most anticipated events of Belfast's 18th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Hutchings was returning to the Black Box a year on from a memorable concert with Sons of Kemet, but this was the first Irish date for The Comet Is Coming.

With the central floor-space cleared of the usual tables the invitation was there to dance and plenty took the opportunity to get up close to the eye of the storm. Swirling keyboard wash, keening saxophone lines and tumbling drums gave way to the bone-shaking dub-step bass rhythms and catchy saxophone motif of "Journey to the Asteroid," one of several tracks from the trio's Mercury Prize-shortlisted CD Channel The Spirits (The Leaf Label, 2016).

Potent as the band's studio persona is, nothing could quite prepare you for the searing energy, the head-spinning intensity and the riotously infectious grooves of The Comet Is Coming on stage. On this opener, Hutchings' equal parts skronk, funk and free-jazz conjured a heady hybrid of Manu Dibango and Albert Ayler.

Leaver's shimmering synthesizer waves, bobbing dance-floor grooves and spacey soundscapes, coupled with Hallet's brilliantly dynamic, shifting beats invited essentially rhythmic interventions from Hutchings, who conjured, in his most trance-like riffs, the burrowing intensity of Brazilian rhythms. Hallett, for his part, wove complex, intoxicating patterns, from primordial club beats to pulsating African polyrhythms. The drummer's most hypnotic African rhythms came on "New Age," a composition of seductive juxtapositions, at once rhythmically pulsating yet melodically lulling.

"Start Running," from the band's ominously titled EP Death to the Planet (2017)—more prophesy than decree—simmered gently from Hallett's low-rumbling mallets intro before ascending to boiling point, with Hutchings unleashing an expansive solo—lean and menacing—over Hallett's rolling patterns. A break of sorts, for all but Leaver, came with the keyboardist's solo spot—a rhapsodic improvisation that perhaps owed as much to Jean Michelle Jarre as it did Eat Static's Merv Pepler.

Hutching and Hallett returned to launch "Neon Baby," the rasping sax motif, thumping bass-drum and industrial keyboard riffs shaking floor, bones and ear-drums. There was no let-up on the raucously infectious "Space Carnival," Hutching's reverb-heavy sax firing on all cylinders over polyrhythms that sent the audience wild. Given the frenzied intensity of the concert to that point, Leaver's neo-church organ intro that followed, and Hutchings balladic musings, together sounded like a signing-off coda, a soft-landing of sorts. Not a bit of it. For the finale, Hutchings cranked up the reverb and launched a furious cascade of riffs and spiralling motifs, the sonic battery compounded by pounding drums and doomy electronics revs. It was gloriously heady stuff that would have left any psychedelic rock outfit on the ropes, pleading for the white towel to be chucked in.

This joint Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Moving On Music production will go down not just as a highlight of the festival, but as one of the gigs of the year in a city presently bursting at the seams with music of all stripes. And still reeling from The Comet Is Coming.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

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 Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Binker & Moses At London's Jazz Cafe
by Chris May
Published: September 15, 2018
Read 12 Points 2018 Live Reviews
12 Points 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 14, 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 "Jazzahead! 2018" Live Reviews Jazzahead! 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: May 3, 2018
Read "King Crimson at Lisner Auditorium" Live Reviews King Crimson at Lisner Auditorium
by Eric Thiessen
Published: November 1, 2017
Read "Art Lillard's Heavenly Big Band at the New York City Baha’i Center" Live Reviews Art Lillard's Heavenly Big Band at the New York City...
by Tyran Grillo
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "Crispell-Fonda-Sorgen Trio Live at The Falcon" Live Reviews Crispell-Fonda-Sorgen Trio Live at The Falcon
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 29, 2017
Read "Fred Hersch's Leaves Of Grass at Jazz at Lincoln Center" Live Reviews Fred Hersch's Leaves Of Grass at Jazz at Lincoln Center
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 26, 2017