Polar Bear / The Bamboos / Billy Cobham & Asere


20 mai 2007, 12h03m

Wed 16 May – Polar Bear

Comprised of two saxophonists, a drummer, bassist and electronic effects guru, Polar Bear are definitely one of the most progressive jazz groups around at the moment. They played the Colston Hall bar on May 16 to an audience mostly made up of older jazz fans looking for something new, with a few younger people who obviously identified with the more fusional facets of their distinctive sound.

Their music represents a form of organised chaos - the audience has absolutely no idea what's going on most of the time, but the band maintains a rigid tight sound and flawless collective timing. They were mostly playing material from their new album, which is recorded but without a name (as are many of the tracks) or any of the album artwork, as well as a few from Held on the Tips of Fingers such as Beartown and The King of Aberdeen.

The excellent leader Sebastian Rochford on drums, sporting an attention-grabbing flamboyant hairstyle, provided the rhythmic foundations with bassist Tom Herbert. Rochford's polyrhythmic and unpredictable beats were a delight to the ear, although unfortunately he never indulged us with an extended solo passage. Leafcutter John on electronics made a lot of nice contributions as well, using such tools as a balloon, mug and pencil, V-shaped electric mandolin and a games controller hooked up to an array of noises which always managed to sound in tune.

Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart were outstanding on tenor saxes. Their arrangements on a lot of tunes could easily deceive listeners to think the saxophone was a chordal instrument, such was the perfection of the harmonic structure. Along with the use of electronics, this is possibly the most progressive aspect of their music - the band is notable for its lack of a chordal instrument and they really make up for it. During solos both displayed great flair and creativity in improvisation. Wareham, also the frontman of Acoustic Ladyland, wowed the horn players in the audience with his use of amazingly fast tongue techniques and one time when he used an echo effect to build up different 'sheets' of notes into distinguishable chord patterns.

I'll definitely be looking out for the new album when it's ready and would recommend anyone interested in progressive, creative, original jazz to check out this amazing band.

Some tunes and gig listings on:

Thu 17 May – The Bamboos

The Bamboos' website boldly claims the band to be "Australia's premier deep funk outfit" and in listening to their tunes on myspace I could understand why. The lineup consists of a powerful three-piece horn section backed up by funky-as-hell guitarist and drummer and steadily-grooving organ player plus solid bassist and soulfully swinging singer, all of them immaculately tight and well-drilled.

Although the venue, Luna Lounge in Clifton, was in my opinion far too small to contain the massive sounds of this top-quality ensemble (and rather too full of yuppies for my liking as well), it was nevertheless a spectacular night. The show started off with an uninterrupted medley of instrumental tunes lasting probably about half an hour; I lost count of the number of songs they played, such was the easy seamlessness with which they moved in and out of different melodies and funky heads.

Daniel Ferrugia on drums was driving things forward with style, but most impressive was the sparse kit he used in doing this. Bass drum, snare, high-hat and one cymbal were apparently more than enough for him, and perhaps more impressive was the fact he wore a suit the whole time in the overheated atmosphere of this cocktail-bar-turned-music-venue. You can always tell drummers of real quality when they amaze you with minimal equipment; this was none more evident than during the one of the closing tunes when he unleashed a viciously funky solo opening for at least five minutes.

The most exceptional part of the evening came during the final song. Trombone player Shannon Barnett, who had previously not taken the soloing spotlight at all, embarked on an unparalelled improvisational journey down the roads of funk. I don't even know how long it went on for, but she brought out more and more catchy lines with every minute, including a sustained passage without the rest of the band and only the audience clapping in rhythm for her to work with. Definitely one of the most inspired individual performances I have seen for a long time and it was pleasing to see that most onlookers were also appreciating it.

The Bamboos have played the Jazz Cafe in London and I would definitely like to see them at a medium-sized venue like that next time they come to Bristol. The infectious grooves and unbelievably well-synchronised horn arrangements get everybody moving in a way very few other bands can manage, so let's hope they come back here soon!

Check out www.myspace.com/thebamboos for songs and information.

Sat 19 May – Billy Cobham, ASERE

Groundbreaking drummer Billy Cobham needs no introduction to listeners of jazz, funk and jazz/rock-fusion. During a career spanning nearly half a century, he's played with jazz luminaries from Miles Davis and Horace Silver to rock-crossover king John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra.

His current project with Cuban soul band Asere, which has been touring up and down the UK in recent weeks, hit Bristol's Colston Hall on May 19. Cobham, who was born in Panama but moved to America at a very young age, is attempting to rediscover his Latin roots by working with Asere, who are regarded as one of the most innovative groups in their home country.

The live show was notable for Cobham's dazzling virtuosity on a drum kit which couldn't have been more different from the set-up I saw The Bamboos successfully employ on Thursday night. It was pretty much a double kit, with two bass drums and endless toms, which Cobham used to tremendous effect. As well as passages of driving funk riffs often present on his albums recorded as leader, he brought in all the subtleness and dexterity used while playing bebop with Silver and added shades of Latin to match what the percussionists of Asere were producing. At the start of the second set he came out alone to give us a long solo, during part of which he played with two drumsticks per hand as well as a shaker in each - definitely haven't seen anything like that before.

It was obvious that Cobham, dressed in a billowy red shirt and matching headband that made him look a bit like a ninja, was very much the main feature. The Cubans, however, did not disappoint. Two guitarists, one of which displayed flashes of virtuosic flamenco technique, a trumpeter, a conga player and a couple of singers, all of whom doubled up on backing vocals and hand percussion from time to time, by and large did themselves justice despite being outshone by the mercurial talents of Cobham.

A couple of traditional songs, for which Cobham left the kit and picked up the bongos, were reminiscent of the classic sound of the Buena Vista Social Club. The Spanish-language rendition of Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues was also nicely done. My favourite moments, however, were the percussive interactions between Cobham on drums and congaman Vicente, who have clearly developed a near-telepathic understanding during the tour. They seemed to be trading ideas and bouncing off each other during every song and especially in the period straight after Cobham's second-set opening solo when the bass and congas came in.

So on the whole, definitely a memorable night. The front few rows of stalls seating in the hall had been removed to open up a dancefloor and there were a lot of people taking up that opportunity. Credit to the Colston Hall again for getting in the world's top talent - it's awesome for Bristol to have a venue like this.

Have a listen at www.myspace.com/billycobhamandasere.


  • BenMH

    drawn here by the mention of polar bear, but may go to to check out that bamboos. thanks.

    21 mai 2007, 16h04m
  • funkdynasty21

    Have yet to listen to The Bamboos, but judging by the sound of their style, I HIGHLY recommend Deep Banana Blackout to you, if you have not already heard of them. Raw-ass funk with a super solid horn section. Their track Breakfast at Volo's is a personal favorite.

    1 juin 2007, 5h55m
  • Rapscallion87

    cheers for the recommendation, i'm listening to some tracks from their website now. it is quite a similar sound to the bamboos, so i think you'd definitely like them too...

    1 juin 2007, 10h39m
  • Furngully

    This group excites me Blue Train

    28 août 2007, 22h02m
Voir les 4 commentaires
Ajouter un commentaire. Connectez-vous à Last.fm ou inscrivez-vous (c'est gratuit).