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Monday, June 06, 2016

Raymond MacDonald & Gunter ‘Baby’ Sommer @ The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle - June 5














Raymond MacDonald (Alto/soprano); Gunter ‘Baby’ Sommer (drums/perc).
(Review by Steve H/photos courtesy of Ken Drew.)
As the sunlight  over the railway bridge  poured through the bay window into the upstairs room  at The Bridge on Sunday night the audience were not only blinded by the sun’s rays but also by the brilliant radiance of the magnificent duo on stage.  It is easy to be prone to hyperbole when enthusiastically reviewing a gig from the night before but I can honestly say that was one of the best gigs in over 40 years that I ever had the pleasure of attending.
Sommer had driven his kit over from Dresden for this short tour and it was well worth the mileage such was the fascinating variety and range of instruments he transported.
From the off it was obvious that there was a close bond between the two protagonists as the interplay and improvisation on display appeared effortless. Unlike much heavily improvised music, the music was accessible and melodic at all times and I’m sure those who may have been put off by the ‘On The Outside’ label would have thoroughly enjoyed this evening.  
MacDonald has a beautiful tone on both alto and soprano and this was really emphasised by a solo piece he performed during the first set. Sommer is a fascinating stylist and augments proceedings with wonderful atmospheric chanting.  This set concluded with the pair lifting a wooden chest to the front of the stage which was a German-made copy of a similar African instrument; the sounds and rhythms Sommer was able to extract from this ‘box’ together with Macdonald’s subtle accompaniment was spectacular.
The second set began where the first left off Sommer played another amazing bit of kit – a metre wide circular cymbal (which appeared to resemble an upturned Moroccan tea table top) rested on the floor of the stage producing the most phenomenal sound. This set also featured a percussion solo which seemed to encompass all of Sommer’s great qualities of improvisation, musicality, technique and humour. At one point he was pretending to hit the drums whilst making the percussive sounds vocally. At the conclusion of the gig, the audience burst into sustained heartfelt applause. Both MacDonald and Sommer thanked the audience for their contribution to the evening. As an encore, Sommer accompanied his partner on the jaw harp. The pair then exited the room still playing allowing the music to drift to a sumptuous close. It was one of Sommer’s late compatriots who wrote a tune which summed up the evening perfectly ‘Ode to Joy’.
Steve H.

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