Keyon Harrold, Ronnie Scott's, EFG London Jazz Festival

There was definitely a buzz about this gig. Two kinds of buzz as it turned out. The first was the buzz from a cable that the band had to cope with. And in the end as Harrold coaxed and filled they played through its insistent fizz. They battled …

Published: 22 Nov 2019. Updated: 2 months.

There was definitely a buzz about this gig. Two kinds of buzz as it turned out.

The first was the buzz from a cable that the band had to cope with. And in the end as Harrold coaxed and filled they played through its insistent fizz. They battled against the odds in another way by using a replacement drummer as Harrold's (the advertised John Roberts) the trumpeter told us had missed his plane so a baseball cap-wearing ''London boy'' Marijus Aleksa, as the lively crowd roared back a few times during the set who sounded a little like Vinnie Colaiuta stepped in to join Shedrick Mitchell on piano and keyboards and the rest of the band,

Harrold who also sang in a very tender voice also had guitarist Nir Felder from New York, using a borrowed guitar from someone called Femi because the airline had mislaid Felder's instrument in transit, and Dominique Sanders from Kansas City on bass guitar in the band. The trumpeter was last heard by this blog playing with Robert Glasper years ago and since then he has played the trumpet part of Miles as acted by Don Cheadle on Miles Ahead and released his own records.

The Missourian's trumpet style has been compared to Freddie Hubbard and certainly there is huge skill to merit such a comparison, and more than that in terms of his own individuality a very emotional quality at work and more achieved through his ability to sculpt expression whether via smears and swerves, bursts of power, or simply in the way that he colours and contours his improvising lines.

Harrold likes to quote melodic phrases, maybe a little thing from a Monk tune, or 'Work Song' when he got stuck perhaps, and the band switched to a reggae feel early on again perhaps buying time but perfectly cool in the context with Sanders superbly taking the beat back, his a liquidy mobile sound that really added propulsion to the band. Felder, you may remember his fine record Golden Age, was a listening presence and delivered a big bluesy solo near the end but it was Harrold who had all the work to do and made a stressful situation seem all in a day's work. Mitchell on piano provided strong support pushing the energy higher when needed and had plenty to say in accompaniment.

The gig began with the voice of Harrold's late mother Shirley on a tape and the band used recorded sound creatively. Later I liked the quote delivered beautifully by Harrold from 'People Make the World Go Round' and Harrold's own lullaby that dates back to his college days worked well and made you want to hear more of his own compositions. He has a tender heart and likes to match the serious with the light hearted and all this contributed to a fine showing that rose above the technical issues that otherwise might have put off a lesser group of musicians. Harrold certainly won the audience over and there were smiles, birthday songs, Harrold's own turning 39 was the other day, all round by the end.

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2019 Highlight: Pulled By Magnets, St John on Bethnal Green, EFG London Jazz Festival

The runaway highlight of the LJF to date thankfully all that had gone in the gig foreplay by the very underwhelming support was instantly erased by Seb Rochford’s darkly churning power trio, a thunderously tenebral vision at work amid the …

Published: 21 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 months.

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The runaway highlight of the LJF to date thankfully all that had gone in the gig foreplay by the very underwhelming support was instantly erased by Seb Rochford’s darkly churning power trio, a thunderously tenebral vision at work amid the sepulchral echoey atmosphere of a spookily resonant church. Rochford, Patti Smith’s drummer of late, did not stint on ladling on the weight and there was a thick wash of electronics bathing Pete Wareham’s tenor sax to aid and abet in very unsentimental fashion. Completing the line-up Neil Charles on bass guitar, chatting to marlbank back stage later mentioned that he’d be gigging with Anthony Braxton soon, now that’s a mouthwatering prospect given the pork pie-hat wearing original Empirical improviser's prowess on this showing. The didgeridoo type sample triggered in one passage was extraordinary. His open sound took me back instantly to his killer Zed-U Concrete bar shows a decade ago with Tom Skinner and Shabaka Hutchings before his fellow Brummie became Kemet famous. ‘Invite Them In’ at the end was the pick. Pulled by Magnets' 2020 album is an exciting prospect to fire-start the scene all over again via their unique mix of dystopian sax, beat wizardry and an avant blues connotation. Make a mental note to seek these guys out. The wheel turns once again and the monk-like presence of Rochford is steering it dazzingly futurewards like no one remotely close on the scene today. Stephen Graham