Having arrived a touch late we took in the first part of Yazz Ahmed‘s set blind, from behind a curtain, but we were immediately won over by the tone her flugel horn and the spacious interplay between stand-in vibraphone player Ralph Wyld and Dave Mannington electric bass.
Once ushered into theatre and onto an empty seat on the front row, one was immediately struck the intimacy of the in-the-round setting and attentiveness of the audience to Ahmed’s arabic inflected ‘Jamil Jamal’.
Between sets, Jez Nelson explained the raison d’etre for the session and attempted to establish a rapport with the pleasingly diverse but inevitably shy audience. His conversation with droll Mancunian guitarist Stewart McCallum was funny and illuminating …. “I hate Jazz!”. A regular force within the Cinematic Orchestra, McCullums’ solo set had faint echoes of the latter. The spacious , ‘Hillcrest’, named after the school where he taught guitar, took liberties with Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ and overall the ebb and flow of his sweeping soundscapes was both surprising and totally engaging.
After forking out a tenner for a copy of McCullum’s ‘Distilled’ CD we settled in for a purely improvised set of “archaic Nubian” bizness from the trio Black Top. Improv is an art in itself and while it tends generate a combination of alienation and pure reverence, I like think we sometimes overlook it’s lighter moments and those fleeting snatches of humour. Interestingly and unusually, being in-the-round Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas had their backs to each other and this left the saxophonist in a similar position as he wove his own melodic lines into music that built in haphazard intensity. That said, it was great to hear Steve Williamsonon both tenor and soprano back in the throes of a freestyle session where Orphy’s mallets danced around on his marimba, scatter gunning rhythms that allowed the bear-like Thomas to rove dangerously over the ivories or switch to electronics – loops, beats and blast of white noise.
A night was had and it lined us all up for the next session feat. Shabaka Hutchings & Sons of Kemet, a solo set from Andrew McCormack plus Ryan Williams Flashmob.
Jazz In The Round takes place on the very last Monday in the month. Bar open from 6pm. First band 8pm. Demand is going to step up… so book now… for tickets call The Cockpit box office on: 020 7258 2925 (lines open 12-6 Monday to Friday), or buy online. All tickets cost £7