Tag Archives: saxophone

Fraser Fifield joins “Playtime”. Edinburgh, October 2017.

I’ve seen Fraser Fiefield play a few times before – most commonly in a duo with Graeme Stephen – but not for several years. This time, the reeds player joined Stephen, Mario Caribe and Tom Bancroft for “Playtime”. I had expected to enjoy it, but I hadn’t expected it to be one of those nights. There was a certain alchemy at work: it was a magical evening, a very special event.

The mixture of folk and jazz blended perfectly and produced something new and surprising. Fifield’s whistles, pipes and saxophone evoked the windswept celtic fringes of Scotland: heartfelt, yearning and perhaps even lonely. The Playtime rhythm section was in full swing, listening hard and adding their own magic to Fifield’s tunes. A exceptional night!

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Partikel. Edinburgh, April 2016.

I was expecting a trio, but Partikel are now a quartet, the sax-bass-drums line up augmented by violin. Since I’d not seen them before, though I’d heard a couple of numbers, that didn’t make a huge difference because I didn’t really know what to expect. What we got was an evening of impressive, sometimes intense music that was clearly jazz but a lot more, too.

Aided by a suite of electronics at their feet, Duncan Eagle managed to make his saxophones sounds like an organ, and Benet McLean got his violin to sing like a choir. Max Luthert was doing something with a Mac, too, but mostly his bass sounded just like a bass should do.

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In fact, the only member who didn’t appear to be electronically enhanced was Eric Ford at the drums, but frankly he didn’t need it: he’s an exciting player as it is, so speedily dexterous that at times I wondered “how’s he doing that?” without being overbearing or brash. (I meant to ask him after the show, but forgot. I think the answer might be multiple pedals.)

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With or without the electronics – which never got in the way and were used sparingly – the quartet made a full, rich sound, with lots of texture and light. There seemed to be a distinct dose of prog in the mix (though this might reflect me rather than the band), and violin added both folk and classical influences.

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Most of the music was new – they were going into the studio the following week to record their fourth album – though since I didn’t know their work, it didn’t really matter. It was complex without being complicated, covered a range of moods and feelings, and was at times energetic and exciting.

“Freedom” at the Vortex. March, 2016.

Orphy Robinson runs a monthly improvisation night at the Vortex, “Freedom”, at which he invites musicians to participate and plays open house. Any musician seems welcome to perform, and Orphy arranges short 15 minute sets. Not only is the music improvised, but there’s no certainty that the musicians have played together before – or even know each other.

I happened to be in London for this week’s show. I’d wanted to go for a while, but living four hundred miles away can get in the way of going to London gigs.

The nature of the event means the quality of the music can be variable: you don’t know who will turn up, or what their skill will be. But that makes it interesting, too: alchemy might happen. And it did.

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There were several “sets” – seven or eight. The first piece had Orphy on vibes with tenor player Ed Jones – who I’d not seen play for ages – together with a drummer (Alex?) who had been working behind the bar up to that point. (They’re a talented bunch at the Vortex.) It set the tone for the evening – the trio produced some excellent, impassioned music, and it was great to hear musicians being so creative.

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Not all the contributions were quite so impressive: that’s the nature of a show like this. Not knowing who or what was coming there were several players I’d really like to see again. The second piece featured Marta Capone’s highly expressive wordless vocals and Kate Shortt on cello, both inventive and entertaining. A pianist introduced only as “Victor” sounded pretty good, too.

They closed with everyone back on the stage. Ed Jones had moved on by then, which was a pity – I’d have liked to hear more of him. Another saxophonist, whose name I didn’t catch, played soprano through a variety of pedals, whilst Orphy played piano and Victor, vibes. Kate, Alex, a trumpeter, a guitarist and three vocalists crammed onto the small stage. I think the smaller ensembles worked better, but it was all pretty interesting – and great fun. As Orphy said as he left the stage, “That’s freedom”!

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