Earlier today I caught a rainy, late morning gig by Rhythmica as part of the Southport Jazz on a Winter’s Weekend Festival. The quintet comprises Mark Crown on trumpet, Peter Edwards piano, Peter Randall double bass, Andy Chapman drums, and Zem Audu on sax. Audu was absent today, his place taken by Binker Golding on tenor sax. There were perhaps 150 people in the audience, with only a handful looking younger than 50. Maybe everyone younger was still asleep.
What a way to wake up! From the first three bars of the first number – Time Machine – you knew these guys were serious – they were people to be reckoned with. The piece was in 11/4 (or perhaps one bar in 3 beats to every two bars in 4), and they were extremely together! Piano and bass were in close unison for an ostinato bass line, trumpet and tenor sax together in similar unison for the melody. And everyone – all 5 – in very tight formation. The close co-ordination was evident throughout the morning, with the players grouping mostly as for Time Machine.
The use of trumpet and sax together, sometimes in unison, sometimes playing seconds and thirds (especially at the ends of unison phrases), with the piano riffing between phrases, as if commenting from the sidelines on the melody, is a feature of Wynton Marsalis’ compositions, and before him, of Wayne Shorter and others in the early 60s. This produces what I find is a very attractive sound, and Rhythmica did it very well. Anthem was in this vein. Sometimes also the bass and drums would double (as in Mr JJ), and just once we also heard trumpet, sax and piano play unison/thirds choruses together, in the aptly named Triple Threat. And for the final chorus of Solace, Crown’s trumpet played long-held falling fifths underneath everyone else’s bop gyrations; these were just sublime.
In a lineup of excellent performers, the standout for me was bass player Peter Randall – he was fast, agile, and with lots of interesting walking lines – and using all five fingers to stop strings in the high registers. But we only heard him solo once (in Parallel) - it would be good to hear more of him.
As best I recall, the order of songs was as follows:
- Time Machine (written by Audu)
- Anthem (Edwards)
- Delfeayo’s Dilemma (Wynton Marsalis)
- Turner’s Dream (Crown)
- Mr JJ (Jeff “Tain” Watts)
- Triple Threat – The Bridge (Edwards)
- Parallel (Joe Harriott)
- Solace (Edwards)
- The Sorcerer (Herbie Hancock)
- Blind Man Stomp (Golding).
The last number was a great New Orleans stomp written by Binker Golding, which the crowd loved – perhaps showing their real preference would have been for something more traditional. Myself, I was happier with what came before. Counting 11 to the bar certainly woke me up PDQ!
UPDATE (2011-02-06): I have now listened to their debut CD. Confirms my view that these guys are not people you’d want to mess with. They have some serious intent and the strong musical skills to achieve it. This is great music.
UPDATE #2 (2011-02-08): The band’s next outing is in a bookshop! First, pre-dawn Saturday morning gigs, then playing in libraries! What next? An appearance on The Archers? Or music to accompany a TV cooking program?