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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

GIJF Day Three: The Waal; Hannabiell & Midnight Blue

The Waal: Ian Stephenson (guitar, melodeon); Andy May (keyboard, Uilean pipes); Sophie Ball (Fiddle); Kyran Matthews (saxes); Martin ? (drums).
(Review by Ann Alex).
The band member I spoke to wasn’t sure of the drummer’s surname, so I’ll excuse myself not knowing, such is the world of folkies, it’s the music that matters, as in jazz.  This was hugely enjoyed by the audience and myself, but I wouldn’t know whether it was jazz or folk, so it was an effective lesson in deciding whether labels mean anything. 
Some numbers came out (to me at least) as folk, such as the reels, composed by Stephenson, with Uilean (Irish) pipes, good drumming, complimented by soprano sax, which turned jazzy only at the end of the piece.  In others, the jazzy sax solos were well integrated into the piece, such as the opening number, with its folky riff overlaid by sax.  Most of the music was original, based on the idea of Hadrian’s Wall, the ‘Waal’ of the title;  the first item was called Knock It Down.
The band continued with such numbers as May’s London In July and The Road To Coburns. A Scandanavian based tune had the guitar leading, musical trembles from the rest of the band and a sensuous-sounding sax. May’s tune 541 included a haunting soprano sax, and the set was rounded off with a delightful French tune in 7/8 time.
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HannaBiell & Midnight Blue
Hannabiell Sanders (bass trombone, mbira, percussion, voice); Yilis Del Carmen Suriel (percussion, mbira); Katy Trigger (bass); Mark Barfoot (African percussion); Matthew Ross (drum, congas); Mick Wright (guitar); Paul Ruddick (sax, flute, voice)
The musicians enter one by one and play bits and pieces casually, which builds the tension. The odd drum beat here and there, a few shouts.  At the right moment the music breaks out, led by the extravert Hannabiell, and you just have to go with her flow, it’s irresistible.  The band’s music is described as Afro-Caribbean and Latin percussion, jazz, Afro-beat, funk and reggae, all blended together, and the mix of instruments listed above gives a big clue.  And more than all this is the forceful personality of Hannbiell with her ‘child’ Tyler the bass trombone, as she urges us to ‘Free yourself to my reason.’
 Much singing of insistent riffs and clapping, a few of the audience are dancing at the side, and it may have been a good idea for the front half of the hall to be cleared of chairs.  Out come the mbiras, which look like large round frying pans.  These are held on the knees and there are keys inside which produce a lovely round type of tone, very Caribbean.  The NRFH has now turned into a nightclub with light moving round the walls. 
Hannabiell sings a Caribbean song which is dedicated to community activism, sax and drums cut across the mbiras, the whole band plays, then Katy has a bass solo, followed by solos on flute, then guitar, fair shares demonstrates the community spirit.  Hannabiell actually dances with Tyler, then comes a chant and a train rhythm and a final song.
The audience naturally demand an encore, and Hannabiell comes off the stage to the front row, dances with one or two people (I was one), then the whole band comes off stage and leads us all out, downstairs, to play rhythms on the concourse.  A fitting end to the festival!
Ann Alex

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