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Sunday, October 06, 2019

Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music: @ The Lit and Phil - October 5

Raymond MacDonald (alto & soprano saxophones); Jer Reid (guitar)
Massimo Pupillo (bass & electronics); Tony Buck (drums & electronics).
(Review by Steve H)

The Saturday night gig of the Newcastle Jazz and Improvised Festival is normally the most challenging and this year’s offering kept to the formula. Three very different styles of international improvised music meant the evening was fresh throughout and made sure the audience were always kept on their musical toes.

First up were two musicians who play together in the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra. Ray Macdonald is a welcome and frequent visitor to Tyneside however this was the first time I had come across guitarist Jer Reid. The duo got into their stride straight away Reid has an almost guttural thrash metal style but thus juxtaposed splendidly with Macdonald’s strident and lyrical saxophone. Some of the harmonies the pair seemed to achieve were miraculous and there was such a Scottish feel to the proceedings that I thought I could hear the sounds of the bagpipes. A good solid start to the evening.




Massimo Pupillo is the bass player with thrash jazz outfit Zu and Tony Buck is the drummer with cult improv Aussie band  The Necks  so when they get together as is there want who knows what might occur. The answer on Saturday was a crash, bang, wallop helping of improvised electronic music which had both non-believers and believers united in their enjoyment of what they had just experienced. To quote my friend Gill who doesn’t normally like this kind of thing ‘it was like being drawn into hell’ before adding ‘but in a good way’. Over the top of eclectic electronic chicanery the duo augment the maelstrom with Pupillo’s bass and Buck’s drums. One is taken on a magic groove carpet to hitherto unknown musical lands - a textured soundscape of menace and joy.
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Ways: Brodie West (saxophone); Evan Cartwright (drums); Achim Kaufmann (piano)

Ways are a Toronto based duo and for this performance they were joined by German pianist Achim Kaufmann thus making this gig a world premiere. Apparently the guys had only met each other the night before so maybe it was no surprise when things got off to a slow start. Once things got going it became very enjoyable as the trio began to dovetail effortlessly. All three players were technically superb and I particularly enjoyed the effect Kaufman produced when plucking at the strings of the grand piano. West began to really crank up the saxophone whilst Cartwright held things together with his steady and thoughtful drumming. A fine end to a marvellously diverse evening
Steve H.

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