I think this must rank as one of the best nights of free-music I’ve seen… A special CD-release performance by Bruise (Tony Bevan, saxes, Orphy Robinson, marimba?/steel drum/electronics, John Edwards, bass, Mark Sanders, drums, Ashley Wales, electronics), joined by guest Matthew Bourne (keyboards), at the Red Rose, Finsbury Park (and technically forming this month’s Back in Your Town).
The first set opened slowly, Mark Sanders beating out a call on block chimes, to be answered by Ashley Wales’ tactful electronic sound-scapes, and gentle vibes from Orphy Robinson. Tony Bevan came in with delicate tenor saxophone motifs, while Matthew Bourne laid out tight mathematical patterns on keys. After a while, John Edwards put out a grandiose rhythm on bass that pulled everyone up, and pushed the juggernaut forwards… Although crass, Bruise would be a pretty good metaphor for that first set; from then on, it was an assault that simmered away just under the obvious surface; a great momentum, but perhaps without a singularly identifyable drive; a purely collective contribution… However, individually: Tony Bevan is a great performer and presence, with articulate, powerful lines; Sanders’ loose, rootsy drumming maintaining the pulse… Wales deployed some background electronic effects that meshed nicely with the acoustic sound, his palette ranging from computerised glitch beats, to extended concrète big-band recordings and voice samples. Orphy Robinson played both marimba (electronic, plus effects pedals, and I think it was a marimba) and also steel drum, its uniquely bright sound adding an interesting and unusual texture to the mix. (Actually, it was a pretty impressive balance, all through, particularly—I think—for such a relatively complex instrumental base.) Alongside Tony Bevan, John Edwards was the star of the show; I think he might have been at the most inspired I’ve ever seen him… He played a short solo someway into the first set that was just fantastic, mesmerising… Overall, a great energy to everyone’s playing, continually avoiding the studious.
Whereas the first set was essentially music without a definite centre (if that’s the right word), the set after the tea-break was much more lyrical and hot (if that’s the right word… Hot/cool free improvisation?). Most of that came from Bevan, I think. I’ve heard him once before, also at the Red Rose, with Sonny Murray, but need to hear more; he has great intensity, but great warmth, his lyricism casting him into a fine sort-of Chicagoan style (hmm… Chicagoan?).
It was all over too quickly, even with the bonus of a fantastically sharp encore… I probably need to check out their recording history (unfortunately out of cash on the night!). The new CD that they were (not massively) promoting, was “We Packed Are Bags”, published on Bevan’s Foghorn Records, and available from his site. Genius.