Louis Moholo Unit, at the Vortex 4th July 2007 » Jason Yarde & Ntshuks Bonga (soprano + alto saxes); Orphy Robinson (marimba); John Edwards (bass); Louis Moholo (drums) «
I only really know Moholo (or, Moholo-Moholo, if that’s more appropriate), specifically, from his playing with the Evan Parker/Steve Beresford/John Edwards quartet Foxes Fox; he was with them at the Vortex last year, I think, playing his ‘last’ gig before moving back ‘permanently’ to his South African homeland (a performance, I notice, currently being prepared for release on Psi records). This group was something completely different, and quite a unique musical experience, a celebration of more traditional (inverted quotes, probably) free-Jazz (with a capital ‘J’) rather than free, free improvisation… Stylistically sounding like no other band or music I’ve ever actually seen, only heard, on dug-out records put out by artists either having some understated civil rights message, or a tendency to walk around on stage wearing robes of gold. Anyway, whatever, completely marvellous.
Jason Yarde and Ntshuks Bonga played soprano and alto saxophones, usually in tandem, improvising around spiralling, coruscating, abstract patterns (piling on plenty of extended technique). There were tunes, tho, with almost-heads, written scores, and everything… Orphy Robinson played great energetic marimba (watching him set the thing up, at the start of the evening, was pretty captivating by itself). It had an important role, really, I think, because Moholo’s drumming comes out like a burning, tumbling power engine, that was constantly turning over, moving, but really there creating a sense of momentum and pulse, with only barely perceptible constructive interaction (if that’s the right phrase). Well, barely perceptible to me. I mean it was brilliantly exciting, but there creating a moving pulse, rather than sculpting out a particular rhythmic line. That left Robinson’s marimba free to bring in a more structured rhythm, I think. With the saxes burning and twisting away, and the drums and mallets doing their thing, John Edwards seemed, at times, to act as the focus, or the channel, that completely meshed the two free aspects together. The second set had a few intense bass features; Edwards is great to listen to, but also inspiring to watch, lightning reactions with such a physically involving instrument. Looks like his solo spot next week will just have to get pencilled in… ;)