The winner of the 2014 Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Young Jazz Musician Award Moses Boyd led his four-piece Exodus for this largely standards-based winner’s gig that began with the young drummer’s composition ‘Axis Blue.’
Boyd told the audience later that he first played the Dean Street club as a 17-year-old with trumpeter Abram Wilson. Since then besides Exodus – in which the drummer was joined by tenorist Binker Golding, tuba player Theon Cross and by guitarist Artie Zaits – Boyd has become well known for drumming in MOBO-winning singer Zara McFarlane’s band, having studied at Trinity Laban, appearing on McFarlane album If You Knew Her and on pianist Peter Edwards’ Safe and Sound and the drummer clearly has plenty of poise and power whether working with singers or instrumentalists.
With a stick in his right hand and a small hard mallet in his left during the first number soaked in spiritual jazz and scaled in a Coltranian Locrian modal frame Boyd’s approach is an amalgam of modern jazz drummers, in the more orthodox passages like Elvin Jones perhaps but certainly in the big duo feature with Golding on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints’ going more free into Rashied Ali territory.
The pair have recorded a mainly free-jazz album, Dem Ones, recorded for Gearbox at Mark Ronson’s Kings Cross studio, a LP that is about to come out, and with the right wind blowing should put them firmly on the map. It’s as exciting a sound as you could dream of hearing at the moment in terms of new jazz records. Yet it was interesting to hear them here in a standards setting, the evening’s set list dominated by Ellington and Monk classic material. The river runs deep no matter how wild and free after all.
In the first set, ‘Perdido’, and best of all ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ came off best, Golding overcoming pre-gig teething problems with his saxophone just back from the repairers. And he showed what a fine interpreter of melody he is. ‘Epistrophy’ was more of a chance for Zaits to shine, his style willing to push beyond the strictures of the harmonies, and sometimes during the set the buzzy guitar lines channelled early rock ’n’ roll with a bluesy lilt to his playing, his use of pedals in his judicious deployment of distortion contributing to a fairly edgy sense of attack. With Cross after a while you actually forget that it is a tuba player and not a double bassist playing given the role in the music and most people now are only dimly aware that early jazz used bass brass rather than string bass even though Exodus don’t play early jazz at all. Cross’ contrapuntal nimble presence and strong harmonic sense deep down despite the potential unwieldiness of the instrument was striking in extended play and his main feature arrived with a fanfare on the gently insistent strains of Monk’s ‘Green Chimneys’. The master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, Kathleen Duncan, presented Boyd with his winner’s medal and the evening was compèred by Nigel Tully. Stephen Graham
Moses Boyd, above