Loose Tubes, Ronnie Scott's | reviews, news & interviews
Loose Tubes, Ronnie Scott's
Loose Tubes, Ronnie Scott's
A joyous, virtuosic, celebratory return to the stage by the legendary big band
Crazed magnificence, off the cuff improv, pinpoint timing. And that was just MC and trombonist Ashley Slater's on-stage banter. In one of the most hotly anticipated jazz gigs of 2014, the return to the Ronnie Scott's stage for the seminal and utterly singular big band Loose Tubes – almost a quarter of a century after their valedictory residency in September 1990 – surpassed all expectations. Following hot on the heels of their gig at the Cheltenham Jazz festival on Saturday, the jazz band's radical polystylism – referencing everything from Charles Ives and traditional music to samba and Weather Report - lit up the club like a supernova.
Joyous, virtuosic, celebratory, the extended single set opened with the block-like contrasts of “Yellow Hill”, a Tubes favourite penned by Django Bates. But it was when the brass chorale of “Säd Afrika” blasted through the room that you really felt the full power and heft of this group. With the 21-strong band fanning right across the stage (and beyond, for some of the wind and brass players), the superb drumming of Martin France acted as a focal point right at the heart of the ensemble.
It was a joy to step inside such a unique sound world
Adhering to the notion that nostalgia isn't what it used to be, the evening featured four new pieces especially commissioned for the anniversary by BBC Radio 3. From the brilliantly coloured chords of Steve Berry's “Smoke and Daffodils” (which suddenly evaporated into silence following a solitary stroke of a bell) and the obsessive pedal note that threads its way through Chris Batchelor's sorrowing waltz 'Creeper', to Django's self-referential “As I Was Saying” with its composer vigorously conducting the band as it reached ever more ecstatic heights (Scriabin eat your heart out) and Eddie Parker's deeply grooving “Bright Smoke, Cold Fire” featuring the great percussion playing of Louise Petersen Matjeka, the new works ensured that the evening wasn't merely some kind of historical reconstruction.
We also heard the circling riffs of “Armchair March”, the reggae vibrations of Eddie Parker's “The Last Word”, plus John Eacott's “Sunny”, in which clouds momentarily threatened in a particularly tricky transition passage. Bates's “Like Life” and Batchelor's “Village” provided the generous encores, the latter offering a typical Tubesian mash-up of New Orleans funeral march and township groove, with John Parricelli's ringing, propulsive guitar lines driving the music on.
For its collective imagination and vivid harmonisations, its playing with your expectations and the sheer contrapuntal detail of the music-making, for these reasons and more it was a joy to step inside such a unique sound world.
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