You know you’re at a popular gig from an in-demand young musician when you enter the hall in what you think is good time, and there’s only one seat left, back row left end, and people already starting to stand to listen. Such was the case with Misha Mullov-Abbado’s, playing as part of the King’s Place Festival this weekend.
This set was only one hour but judging by the whooping and hollering from an appreciative crowd at the end of the gig, people felt they got their money’s worth (just £6.50). What did they get for the price of an artisan cider at a central London bar? Nine musicians (in various combos) representing the cream of the city’s young players, eight pieces each different from the other, some wonderfully taut playing and soloing and a range of musical moods.
Circle Song had a mournful feel with great unison playing from Tom Green on trombone and Matthew Herd on sax, both in-demand in their own right whose playing bought out the inventiveness of the tracks, all composed by Mullov-Abbado and present on New Ansonia, his debut album for which this gig was the launch. Third track Lock, Stock & Shuffle turned ninety degrees into an boozy swing fest as colourful as the streets of Notting Hill on carnival time. Star of this tack was young pianist Jacob Collier, looking all of fifteen in command of the Steinway, who threw down some marvellous chops and light-as-a-feather trills. Sadly, this was his last gig with Mullov-Abbado’s band, but what a send-off
Things went into tempo overdrive with Gromit’s Grand Outing (no cheese was consumed), all fast playing, be-bop sensibilities and breakneck soloing from all the players on stage. It got a huge round of deserved applause. The best track of the night was the album title track, for which they bought on stage guitarist Nick Goodwin. His simple but, by golly, funkily effective Morse code-like riff was hypnotic and fired up the band to play some of their strongest stuff. Very, very nice to listen to in this small venue.
Mullov-Abbado was content to let his band-mates hog the spotlight much of the time, but when he came to his solos, he showed a maturity belying one so young. Some lovely touches and melodies full of yearning and candour.
Talking of spotlights, that was the only downside of the night. The staff member on lighting should be charged with being drunk in charge of a lighting rig, such was his or her propensity to miss spotlighting soloists and feel the need to have the stage gels shift colour every five seconds or so, drawing one’s attention from the music. Stop it! It’s not necessary.
Nonetheless, a very pleasant hour at a venue that keeps demonstrating that while it may be underground, it’s always shooting for the stars.