Thursday 18 October 2007

Watch out for Empirical

Together with 3 friends, I run a jazz club in Leicester; we put on around 12-14 gigs a year, mostly in a nice old Edwardian theatre owned by the YMCA. John, a jazz drummer (who once interviewed Miles Davis, Roy Haynes, Chick Corea- but that's another story) does the accounts; Chris, an arts management teacher handles the grant applications and takes photographs, Nick- another jazz drummer and saxophonist- does the bookings and publicity; I stand at the back and sell cds, and we all do our fair share of worrying that no-one will turn up to be in the audience.

There have been plenty of gigs where we have lost money; in fact it's far easier to count the ones where we made a profit, but in all the years that Leicester Jazzhouse has been in existence, I can think of only one gig that I regret promoting because of the quality of the music. (No, of course I won't.)

I'm glad to say the really memorable ones have been more frequent; some obvious ones: Lee Konitz with John Taylor, Dave Green & Trevor Tomkins, the night with Sheila Jordan & Harvie S(wartz) when the pa broke down and so she sang without, Elton Dean's Newsense with Roswell Rudd, Evan Parker with Tony Levin.... (& the solo gig where Evan played Monk tunes)

and some less obvious: Gilad Atzmon's first gig outside London, Will Vinson, and 2 nights ago a young band called Empirical, fresh from winning the EBU award for new bands at the North Sea Jazz Festival- see

I first heard them in Nottingham at Jazz Steps at the Bonington Theatre (the only venue I know where you can stand in the bar and look down at swimmers in the pool below.) I do a cd stall there also, so attend most of their gigs. To be honest, when I saw the band photo in the programme I anticipated hearing another identikit hard bop band; by the end of the evening I knew we had to book them. (And book them quickly; I'm sure they will soon be charging more than we can afford!)

There has been one change in personnel from the band I heard in Nottingham (and which made their debut cd on Courtney Pine's Destin-E label) but no change of direction; their roots are in hard bop- 3 of them are graduates from Gary Crosby's Tomorrow's Warriors- but crucially they have been inspired by the music of Ornette Coleman, and their Colemanesque combination of abstraction and dancing melody makes their music both intriguing and immediately engaging.

Some of their themes are perhaps a little too complex- they are young enough to sort that later-but they negociate them with a crackling confidence and with none of the 'head in the dots' stance you see at so many gigs. They play with an infectious enthusiasm and delight & look far too young to be as good as they are, showing an endearing ingenuousness when they announce a song 'inspired by David Attenborough's Blue Planet- we're all really into that.'

Catch them if you can.

Friday 12 October 2007