Basquiat Strings @ Union Chapel
Good jazz is like musical metaphor: defamiliarising, juxtaposing, playful, so dense it’s simple, so true it hurts, and so tangible you could reach out and touch it. Under the great sandy ribs and tiny tea lights of Union Chapel, Islington last Friday, I copped a creamy handful from two hungry, young, accessible ensembles who cut through the cerebral crap to create instinctive, sensual sounds.
The Mercury nominated sextet Basquiat Strings combined Bartok, Shostakovich, sweeping Nyman-esque chords and dissonant jazz riffs with a keenness that made my teeth ache. Incredibly sophisticated and multi-layered, their pieces bed down so deep that the lead lines soar free with an eerie, animal purity, scoring the rafters with sinister sweetness. The underlying influence of East European folk adds melancholy edge to a sound that tastes very old and very sweet: tarnished silver and carraway seeds.
Portico Quartet – earthier, insistently rhythmic, suffused with the warm chimes of their distinctive hang drum – moved from pulsing, carnival glee to soothing, crooning melodies with charming, cheeky-boy ease and the mellow, metallic savour of communion wine served in a old clay cup.
Recondite, refrigerated geekBlonde that I am, jazz can leave me intellectually interested, but physically cool. These heartfelt, imperfect bands made me want to stop thinking nonsense about metaphors, lie down, and melt.