Timo Lassy quintet, The Pheasantry, King’s Road, London

From August 2015. Skinny-tied, lightly bearded, long and lean, blowing like Dexter, watchful, alert – apparently this was Timo Lassy’s first London gig with his band – rolling on from a Brecon Jazz Festival appearance at the weekend. Here on the …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 2 years.

From August 2015. Skinny-tied, lightly bearded, long and lean, blowing like Dexter, watchful, alert – apparently this was Timo Lassy’s first London gig with his band – rolling on from a Brecon Jazz Festival appearance at the weekend.

Here on the King’s Road in Chelsea – among the rock folklore of this remarkable building Eric Clapton even lived upstairs in the Cream years long before it was a pizza restaurant – the Finn was appearing in the basement club for the first time with his quintet, the Ethiopia-born Abdissa Assefa on congas and percussion the engine of the high performance rhythm section purring into Don Alias-like high altitude cruise control mode knitting in with the young sharp suited baby faced drummer Ville Pynssi the latter looking as if he is just about old enough to shave.

Lassy let the band open up to warm the stage before he strolled on, hair swept back, the blow-dried look, the quiet surge of Giorgos Kontrafouris (also known as George Kontrafouris) on Wurlitzer electric piano wrinkling out the knots and untangling the curls of the twists and turns of the tenor line on ‘Green Pepper Strut.’

‘African Rumble’, featured on Lassy’s debut The Soul and Jazz of Timo Lassy from some eight years back, was a nice surprise towards the end, while ‘Fast Fabio’, the fifth track of the new album had some incredible scurrying energy to it, the congas of Assefa locking with drummer Pynssi although the big drum solo didn’t quite catch fire.

Lassy, terrific this year with much of his band here on Joyce Elaine Yuille’s poised debut album Welcome to My World, has made a lot of new friends with Love Bullet his ace new album released on the Membran label. Tracks from it (nearly all the saxist’s originals) that got an airing early on included ‘Waltz Unsolved’ certainly the big highlight of the album, vibes-flavoured on that version, sounding a little different here blessed still with that Dexter Gordon-like romantic hero lead theme that diverts off… percussion and drums chopping the rhythm up and sharing it out democratically.

Lassy didn’t speak to the audience much apart from mentioning that he’d be playing material mainly drawn from the album and noted that “wi-i-i-i-deos,” in his mellifluously Finnish-accented English, and ‘vinyls’ were available by the door. And this is a vinyl band in many ways, a suitably tactile warmth to the sound that even transfers to CD. Double bassist Ville Herrala took a great arco solo later (no one went to the bar at that point), and while Herrala might have looked as if he had just come from a funeral, he buried his sorrow or nerves completely to burn out veritable riff-burning flames licking up and down the strings as he somehow managed to stamp his beats with his own well-crafted touch while at all times providing a springy mobility that allowed Lassy to leap and lope, meander and mooch as his own style insists.

It’s pretty obvious then from this showing that Lassy has a superb sound, strong and communicative, energetic and knowing, and his band got a warm reception from a club that eventually filled up healthily enough certainly for a Monday night. Clapton, these days apparently enough of a jazz lover to turn up at Kurt Rosenwinkel gigs, might just as well have still been floating about inside the fabric of the place… digging the Lassy vibe. SG

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Christine Tobin, Forge, London

From November 2012. Playing the Forge in Camden for the first time Christine Tobin chose the occasion to perform songs from her 2012 album Sailing to Byzantium, matching the album selections with songs by Leonard Cohen, Brooklyn poet Eva Salzman, …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 2 years.

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From November 2012. Playing the Forge in Camden for the first time Christine Tobin chose the occasion to perform songs from her 2012 album Sailing to Byzantium, matching the album selections with songs by Leonard Cohen, Brooklyn poet Eva Salzman, and at the end Carole King.

With the Margate-based singer’s band of pianist Liam Noble, her accompanist on Carole King songbook album Tapestry Unravelled, bassist Dave Whitford, cellist Kate Shortt, and guitarist Phil Robson, Tobin, whose latest album sets music to the poetry of WB Yeats with spoken word contributions by the great actor Gabriel Byrne (his recorded voice an evocative early presence here on ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’), was able to channel deep to the heart of the matter in her intelligent treatment of the peerless poetry of Ireland’s national poet. ‘The Second Coming’, Tobin describing it as ‘apocalypic’, was the most dramatic interpretation of the two-set concert, although one of Tobin’s great many strengths is that she relies on close study of her texts in terms of enunciation and above all timing performing the songs with a vocal range that makes use of a great deal of flexibility in terms of tone, and understated but hugely effective communicative quality.

It could be said that having heard Tobin’s vocal versions of choice poems from the Yeatsian canon returning to the source has added meaning, added light and texture such is the finely judged sensitivity Tobin brought to the project. ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz’ was quite superb, and ‘Long-Legged Fly’ with lovely little syncopated touches from Shortt a strong feature of the programme dotted with delights. Tobin is also a remarkable interpreter of the songs of Leonard Cohen, and the inclusion of a few of his songs was a strong match, and I particularly enjoyed her rendition of ‘Everybody Knows’ that drew out the humour and seriousness of the lyric.

Sailing to Byzantium is a quite extraordinary album, Tobin peerless and unassailable here, Yeats clearly her métier, in Cohen’s line ‘a shining artifact of the past.’