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The Solo Summit

July 11th, 2005 | No Comments | Categories: Uncategorized |

So last night was The Solo Summit a mini festival-within-a-festival as part of Hackney’s Spice Festival.

The idea was to have lots of performers on different instruments and across myriad styles all playing solo. As it was, it was that and a whole lot more – the solo performances spawned some really interesting collaborations as the mini-sets overlapped.

Due to the current mess of bomb-scares and transport disasters in England, a few of the performers were either late or didn’t appear at all, so the set was being re-jigged all evening, and as a result even more time was freed up for new combinations of players. The initial three long sets became four slightly shorter sets, and each set seemed to take on a character of its own.

The first set began with Tunde Jegede on Kora, who was then joined by Cleveland Watkiss, who was using my loop set-up to great effect, layering vocals on top of Tunde’s gorgeous Kora.

The rest of the set was three of Orphy’s students, Renel, Yao and Michael, two spoken word artists and guitar/bazouki, respectively, who played some marvellous music. My set dove-tailed into the end of Michael’s, as I took a short solo over the end of his last piece. I then played Grace And Gratitude, and went into The Kindness Of Strangers, which Orphy joined me on, with my loop gradually fading after I’d left the stage and Orphy took over for his solo spot. End of set 1.

Set 2 was very different – mainly guys from the London Improvisors Orchestra, it started with harpist Rhodri Davis (playing music a fair bit removed from his work with Charlotte Church!), Bass Saxist, Tony Bevan, flugal horn from Claude Deppa and electronic bleeps ‘n’ squawks loveliness from Steve Beresford. An interesting set with moments of magic, a very long way from the opening set! This stuff is really a stretch for the audience – they seemed to stay with it though, which was great.

Set 3 was back to many of the performers from set 1, with the addition of Pat Thomas on piano (an insanely gifted musician) and Steve Williamson on Sax. I played another duet with Cleveland, and a trio with Cleveland and Tunde on a track that they’d be playing as a duo, which worked beautifully. I had it set up that I was able to loop Cleveland in the usual way, so that gave us a lot of scope to loop ‘n’ layer and have some fun, and it came out superbly well.

By Set 4, we were about an hour ahead of schedule (whoever heard of a gig running ahead of time???), but my ears were getting a little fatigued after such a long time of intense listening. I listened to BJ’s set from just outside the main auditorium, where the processed ambient pedal steel wafted beautifully around. The set grew with the addition of more and more musicians, til most of the LIO guys were back on stage making a glorious racket. Cleveland then joined them, and once I’d turned up his mic, was able to add a vocal percussion loop to it, and start to inject a key centre into the melee. I joined in on bass, and the whole thing gradually mutated from free soundscape to twisted funk/swing groove thang, providing a space for the rappers/spoken word guys to rejoin the party. As the musicians peeled off one by one, the loop faded, and it ended with just bass, acoustic guitar and the two voices. One heck of a journey from the free to the funky. I look forward to hearing the recording of that one too!

All in, a fine evening’s music. A smallish crowd (hey, that’s brit-jazz for you), but an enthusiastic one with a fair amount of stamina!

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