Dominic Lash, Ricardo Tejero, Southville, Summer, Own Label ***

Conservative jazz fans big or small c don't have much time for free-improv. They never got the memo. Without getting into exceptions which doesn't prove any rule even if they exist what I mean by small c ''conservative jazz fans'' are the kind who …

Published: 25 Nov 2021. Updated: 8 days.

Conservative jazz fans big or small c don't have much time for free-improv. They never got the memo. Without getting into exceptions which doesn't prove any rule even if they exist what I mean by small c ''conservative jazz fans'' are the kind who know exactly what they want and stick to that come thick or thin. It's not specific fandom it's ''type of jazz'' preference. They are suspicious of the new! And they are particularly suspicious of anything that doesn't swing, sounds a bit ''plinky plonky'' or is full of let's-use-another-''c''-word, ''cacophony''. I suppose it's to do with what you feel about form and structure and really what you sense as a listener how far is safe to go with improvisation and freedom. That's a big subject. One person's freedom from, is another's freedom to.

Often it's the shock of the new that scares the very bejaysus out of the tory-jazzers unless that ''wildness'' is historical and can somehow be tamed. Of course there is a lot of cant written about free-jazz and critics of the hipsters who rave on endlessly about it are known to dismiss their preference as ''trendiness,'' ''woke'' even, if they are really jumping into the culture wars, as their diagnosis of that taste ''malaise''. Some free-jazz does not work I'd be the first to admit and avant jazz is a style like any other, you either like it or you don't. But it does say something about you if if you are hostile fundamentally to it for any of the above reasons.

Free-jazz does help change things and that is at the root of this discussion. We need change as a jazz community because everything is not OK. And change is achieved on the bandstand and spread by audiences who somehow get convinced and then word carries. Where to look for it today?

I've long been an admirer of bassist Dominic Lash here in duo with reedist Ricardo Tejero I suppose since Opabinia released eight years ago. Live, the best I have heard him, was with the late great Steve Reid even further back in 2009 at the Jazz Cafe that time playing bass guitar surfing the thunder that was the ecstasy of the Reid onslaught. Southville, Summer is thoughful stuff, not about massive heat but you feel the ideas spooling out in real time, like coming up with new routes, not just going the same old way. Half the album here works, the first half. The latter half isn't as compelling. 'Fernleaze' is when the sound practically disintegrates, 'Grittleton' is more chamber music-like. 'Drongola' hones in on tiny details as Lash plucks and Tejero there on clarinet responds talkatively. 'Estoril' meanwhile goes more into Paul Dunmall territory. Not everything works (I think Tejero could have left his whistle at home as 'Bangrove' suffers from it) but that's approaching the essential point again: experiment and see what sticks. And certainly the first two tracks 'Comyn' and 'Allfoxton' do just that. Recorded earlier this year in Bristol experimentalism is all, something that needs to go in every jazz manifesto sooner or later and then acted upon pronto. SG

Ricardo Tejero, top. Photo via the duo's Bandcamp page

Tags: Albums and EPs

Club focus: the Oxford

Looking for a place to chill any given blue Monday? First things first ''jazz at the Oxford'' is a weekly club. It's not on every night. It's also that thing that was typical in gigdom of lore on the London scene, a ''back-room-in-a-pub gig'' only …

Published: 25 Nov 2021. Updated: 8 days.

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Looking for a place to chill any given blue Monday?

First things first ''jazz at the Oxford'' is a weekly club. It's not on every night. It's also that thing that was typical in gigdom of lore on the London scene, a ''back-room-in-a-pub gig'' only this is a variant, an ''upstairs-in-a-pub'' gig. For many alas it's on a difficult night of the week, a Monday. But usually even on the London scene there isn't much on reliably regularly beyond Ronnie's on a Monday week in week out. So that factor gives the bands who play here an advantage, fans won't be going elsewhere if tempted by some other venue as much. The other main advantage is the Kentish Town pub's location because it's close to a tube and on a bus route. Forget about taking the car there – you won't get parked easily.

As to the feel of the place it's largely an acoustic sort of place, meaning they don't bother much or at all with microphones. The windowed upstairs room is laid out and compact enough to facilitate that. You get your drinks downstairs and bring them up so it's not ideal from a refreshment point of view for the interval. However, and more importantly, the audience is a listening lot, mostly gig-goers are fairly aged although occasionally a few younger faces are to be seen among the greybeards although the band are usually the youngest people in the room. There isn't too much talking over the band which happens at a lot of others venues unfortunately although some because of the amplification cloaking it are able to accommodate discreet nattering and impromptu table yodelling without it being too much of a factor. Not here.

Usually the bands put on are quite new on the scene or who have surfaced mainly in recent years. Last time we were in the spot for instance was to hear the up-and-coming trumpeter Alex Ridout. Sometimes more seasoned players intermingle from an older generation which is always stimulating. So all in all one of the best no-hassle grassroots venues on the north London scene putting on quality progressively-minded ''modern jazz'' (meaning: not avant, not trad, but rather generally bebop and hard bop or chamber jazz-flavoured) styles as a policy. A good place as any to ward off any old blue Monday.

Next it's flautist Gareth Lockrane, pianist Noah Stoneman, bassist Will Sach and drummer Will Cleasby – who leads the quartet – on 29 November. Tickets