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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Three by Three a Feast of Trios @ The Bridge Hotel October 1

(Review by Steve H/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew). 
The final concert of the inaugural Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvisation was yet another sell out and by that I mean the ‘house full’ signs could be put out rather than that the musical integrity of the festival had been compromised. What a great weekend it had been an A to Z (Archipelago – to Zoe Rahman) of artists be they local, national or international. Great credit must be given to all involved but an extra special tribute should be paid to programme director Wesley Stephenson who not only dreamt up the whole idea but was actually able to deliver the project with such unprecedented success.  
The three trios played, to a great or lesser extent, something I would call chamber jazz and reminded me at times of the wonderful Bartok String Quartets.
The first trio up Musson, Kjaer & Marshall played in a fairly minimalist style and improvised around one another seamlessly. The music demanded 100% attention and the packed audience remained respectfully silent throughout which, given its size, was most impressive. A great start to the evening
After a short break Jurd, Kjaer & ‘Leafcutter’ John took to the stage. The ‘Leafcutter’ performed on an instrument which looked like it belonged more on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise rather than on the upstairs floor of The Bridge Hotel Newcastle. To the naked eye it appeared that that in each hand a crystal orb was being held and by moving the two orbs towards and away from a computer of some sort a marvellous concoction of sounds was conjured up with the added bonus of an impromptu light show to boot. I guess you could call it an optical Theremin. Not to be technologically outdone, Jurd used various objects as mutes including a half pint beer glass and an empty crisp packet. Hopefully Kjaer wasn’t feeling too left out and at least she was able to alternate between alto and flute. A very entertaining set indeed.

To complete not only this event but also the entire festival, Barrel stepped up to the plate. My first thoughts were that they appeared to be a classical string quartet minus a violin. However, aside from this obvious difference, the improvisation and the abundant sense of humour the trio displayed emphasised why I find this kind of music so much more enjoyable than straight forward classical chamber music. Every so often Kallin would yelp or chat to his fellow band members in a most humorous fashion yet rather than undermine the performance it seemed to enhance the proceedings adding a light touch to what can be a very intense form of music. A cracking end to an amazing weekend I can’t wait till next year’s festival!
Musson, Kjaer & Marshall: Rachel Musson (tenor sax), Julie Kjaer (alto sax); Hannah Marshall (cello).

Jurd, Kjaer & ‘Leafcutter’ John: Laura Jurd (trumpet); Julie Kjaer (alto sax,flute); ‘Leafcutter’ John (electronics).

Barrel: Alison Blunt (violin); Ivor Kallin (viola); Hannah Marshall (cello).

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