CAMBRIDGE JAZZ FESTIVAL
Jazz is on the up. Once it was the province of older chaps who clung to the fading strains of their youth in the 60s. Today it reports young people playing jazz, hearing it, and celebrating it all over Europe and beyond.
“People want the experience’ explained David Gower (‘like the cricketer but without the bank balance’ he says). Long time impresario and Mâitre de Modern Jazz Club he has seen stars he knew as beginners rise into the contemporary scene.” Young people are looking for something more than the Hollywood processed music piped at them. Jazz is now new and exciting. And it’s all about the experience, not the record label”
Cool and still cooler, the Cambridge Jazz Festival first Saturday line-up charmed a youthful hip audience. Even the support band was awesome. Sam Miles & Vij Prakash Quintet with their own compositions (often a heart-sinking signal) but here a gorgeously complex set of harmonies with enough chilled out smoky atmos to relax every bone in your body. A 50s bee-bop number by Booker Little (are only jazzmen called Booker?) was amazing.. Vij on trombone manages to sieve his sounds through the jazz cellars of New York rather than the Salvation Army. ‘Turncoat’ was Sam’s own song. Was it a fugue for a renegade jazzer who’d gone electric? It took us a further notch down the scale towards total blissed out jazz heaven. A memorably melodic Jule Style number headed towards the end of their memorable (humming the Jule Style number on the way for a half time drink) set.
All this in the splendour of the new state-of-the –art hall that is ‘Storey’s Field’ at Eddington, just at the end of Turing Way, off Hawking Drive. This sounds like a scientists’ Monopoly game, but follow the groundbreaking thinkers of the twentieth century to Eddington, (the name of the University’s new village, Sir Arthur was a major mover in the world of astrophysics). Glowing hoops of coloured light signpost the place – and inside it is a temple to sound appreciation. Wooden beams overhead are staggered to prevent reverberation, baffles are hidden to enhance the sound. It is so effective that when anyone drops a paper cup it sounds like a small explosion. No fewer than 28 high-powered directional lights with wattage worthy of a nuclear power station security ring, combine to create amazingly a soft magical atmosphere that subtly varied throughout the music. Future music acts will be fighting to get in there . VIj Praaksh commented “ It is so relaxing to play here, the notes come out as you intend them to, we’re used to bars with people talking. This is the opposite. Perfect”
Stars of the evening the Elliot Galvin Trio took the jazz further down the chill scale. Heralded as a rising star on the Jazz A list, Galvin’s Trio is a magical morph of calm meditative sounds with a frankly audacious programme. Pushing the envelope? They have the entire writing desk turned over by the end of their set. Keith Jarrett was clearly in there but the sensuous melodic flourishes had resonance with many musical tropes – from classical twentieth century music to the Beatles. Some pieces began with recorded voices of children whilst Elliot Galvin took up the story with quiet harmonies from his expert piano range. A single note from him seemed packed with a lifetime of pianoforte knowledge. Where was their brilliant bass player getting those noises? It was joyous and rewarding and fun. But rather like the experimental artist who adds that extra -fatal - layer of paint to his canvas , they took the wild vibes too far with ‘Boys’ Club’. It was convincing as a cacophonous account of a bunch of rowdy lads together, but set to music? Not so much.
More enthralling was Dogs and Bees, a musical account of a Roman Emperor who delighted in joke presents for his subjects. They would open a crate of dead dogs or a box of bees on occasion. Fantastical and far-fetched yet all there in the richly layered music
Off to Amsterdam next week, the intelligent chilled out threesome expect heady times ahead. (it’s a sign of times when they offer vinyl versions of their latest album). Amusing witty and full of fabulous talent they will go all the way. Wider still and wider ranges the Cambridge Jazz Festival, hooking in artists from Europe and America ,often boomeranging from the London Jazz Fest. There is a new movement afoot. Behind it lies Jazz Record Requests asking for plays for a ninetieth birthday boy, (nice as that is) and before it a whole ingenious musical world of exploration and invention.