Monday 29th February saw Jazz In The Round hosted at the small but perfectly formed Cockpit Theatre in London. It was the last recording for the BBC’s Jazz on 3 (18 years and 900 shows later, to be precise). Hosted by Jez Nelson, who will resume his services for Jazz FM at the beginning of April with his late night show, Something Else, the night was expected to be an intense experience.
Empirical, the great smooth quartet with the talents of Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Shane Forbes (drums), Lewis Wright (vibraphone) and Tom Farmer (double bass), started the show with a bang. The guys didn’t just play jazz, they made the audience feel and breathe it.
The band will launch their magnetic new album, Connection, at Kings’ Place on 18th March - a show not to be missed. Back at The Cockpit, Empirical, smartly dressed, played from their new album. It was an incredible performance, the band playing grittier, stronger tunes, at times full of such passion, denoting how much this group of young men have yet to give to the world of jazz music.
An example was the track Stay The Course, which featured Facey’s innovative writing and playing, bringing together the band in a crescendo by drummer Forbes and vibraphonist Wright.
Card Clash, written by Tom Farmer - an autobiographical tale of a credit card clashing with an Oyster card - saw Farmer performing at an amazing rage-fuelled pace (which is understandable, bearing in mind the disaster caused by the cards!).
Facey’s resounding alto saxophone led the audience into a mad vortex, playing with such passion, performing with such class!
The last track the band offered was Lethe, written by Lewis Wright; this was a slow, potent and emotionally charged piece. It was like listening to the sound of the night. Magical!
Django Bates, British composer and multi-instrumentalist, followed with a few pieces that kept the audience attentive and pinned to their seats. He was like an abstract artist, offering tunes that anyone in the audience could then translate into their very own language.
With the last act, four generations of magnificent jazz musicians stepped on to the Cockpit stage ready to play la pièce de résistance: an improvisation that would blow everyone’s mind.
The mighty saxophonist Evan Parker, young trumpeter Laura Jurd, pianist Alexander Hawkins and vibraphonist par excellence, Orphy Robinson.
It is not every day (or every night, as the case might be) that one is treated to such jazz class, so when they started playing, an adrenalin-permeated room stayed silent, listening and enjoying the music.
Parker was a solemn genius, his continuous sax playing leaving one speechless whilst Jurd’s trumpet notes were remarkable, fresh and yet very strong. Orphy’s rendition was absolutely majestic.
What an absolute treat and what a perfect ending for the Jazz On 3 series. To quote Jez Nelson on the night: “Jazz is in rude health!”. And I am in total agreement, of course!
Words: Erminia Yardley
Photos: Carl Hyde