6 July 2009

Portraits in jazz

Adnoisiam. It’s a punny name, but the music was anything but. Miro presented a beautifully subtle and intimate quartet in the foyer of the National Portrait Gallery. I didn’t recognise many tunes until we got to the end of the second set and Miro brought out some stalwarts from the Wanderlust catalogue including that hauntingly beautiful “Peace please”. I love the music of Wanderlust for honesty and perception and exhuberance, and this was just icing on the cake. But this band was less worldly, more internalised, more impressionistic. Luke played fewer discordances than when he plays post-bop, and his rhythmic conception was more classical turn of the (20th) century sprays of notes rather than sustained 8th note jazz lines. Ed had few solos but his accompaniment was closely felt and richly dynamic; lovely playing and nothing unusual for Ed. Bill accompanied with concentrated, thoughtful restraint, and soloed frequently and with a rich sense of melody. I particularly enjoyed Miro's style in this meditative context. That purity of trumpet tone (I see wave forms when processing the recordings I make; the trumpets have a unique and pure signature) with unadorned and simple melodies, intersperced with long notes or hectic legato outpourings. Nothing was extraneous in this band; nothing forced. It was music for a Sunday afternoon, but intelligent and deeply felt, never just smooth. From the back of the foyer, the sound was very live and piano and bass were a bit indistinct. But closer in, it was clearer and more richly textured and Miro’s trumpet took on a delightfully rich tonality, courtesy of reverberations from the hard surfaces. There was a small but appreciative listening audience, and most visitors to the gallery stopped and appreciated the intellectual clarity and purpose of the music. There was even a Vanity Fair portrait of Louis Armstrong looking in on the proceedings. How apt!

Adnoisiam were Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet and leader), Luke Sweeting (piano), Bill Williams (bass) and Ed Rodrigues (drums). BTW, the NPG is staging Sunday afternoon jazz for the next few weeks to accompany its visiting exhibition of Vanity Fair portraits. It’s well worth a visit: for the jazz, but also for the Vanity Fair portraits, the permanent collection, and the recently-awarded architecture.

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