Saturday 3 August 2013

Manchester Jazz Festival, Friday 2 August - Laura Jurd Quartet, The Dors

Laura Jurd Quartet
Festival Pavilion Teepee 

Luara Jurd turned heads as the trumpeter with Phil Meadows’ band at Matt and Phred’s last month. A credit to her teachers, we gushed to music educationalist Kathy Dyson (whose table was just in front of ours). It was a case of reflected glory. Dyson was Meadows’ teacher actually, and, in fact, Jurd had trained at Trinity’s. Well, never mind, hats off to Trinity, and praise too to Jurd’s native genius. At  21, she’s one of the brightest talents to emerge on the British jazz scene. The bassist, Conor Chaplin, mind, looks about 14. 

Her beautiful trumpet is a point of pure lyricism in all the intense activity and shifting colours around her, and her writing evinces a matchless degree of personal creativity. The opening couple of numbers (called, according to my notes, ‘Solven Fjord’ and ‘Raw on the Inside’), have the unpredictability, grace and controlled energy of an inspired modern choreographer. The melodies are marvellous, and the way they crash and mesh is highly diverting.  

Jurd’s generation have inherited the best of both worlds: the sophistication of classical, matched with the freshness and spontaneity of jazz. A ballad, ‘Oh So Beautiful’ is a charmer and relatively straight: a showcase for Jurd’s near-perfect tone. 

Corrie Dick has just received the accolade Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, and is a biting and bustling drummer who merits his own tune from Laura. ‘Corrie’s Theme’ is no showcase for flamboyant technique, but a beautifully-tempered, attractive melody which develops into a duo between percussion and Elliot Galvin’s prepared piano. 

I can’t help but feel how lucky they all are, by dint of talent and temperament, to have the opportunity to immerse themselves so totally in a world of music. They obviously feel the privilege and repay with startling and innovative music of their own. All the riches of jazz and classical are there as their personal heritage. Young Conor Chaplin has the lyricism and power that Jaco Pastorius died for, and seems very unassuming and modest about it. 


The Dors  
Royal Northern College of Music 

What an extraordinary band! Two thirds of trioVD and a French duo called Donkey Monkey combine to make The Dors. Is it ‘prog’ jazz or simply avant-garde jazz rock with an overlay of chanson? All this and more.  

Donkey Monkey

The first notes came from Chris Sharkey’s guitar: a scale of rising and descending thirds. Something like it served Steve Cropper well whenever Otis Redding sang a ballad. Except that the scale soon slips into dissonance and is accompanied by a choir of ethereal voices, before making way for some insistent drumming and staccato riffing. 

Electronics are used to enhance and subvert the physical sound. It’s often difficult to work out who is playing what, with the exception of drummer Yuko Oshima, who provides a human touch and is the catalyst for all the unpredictable changes that ensue. 

The Dors excel at impressionistic drift and it’s opposite, wayward clanking. The former was epitomised by the dreamlike ‘Say Nothing About the Suitcase Not Arriving’ (The Dors can mesmerise with a single repeated note), whilst the latter found expression’ in ‘Notes from the Underground’, in which a text by Dostoevski is broken down to abstract elements. 

Christophe de Bezenac

The trioVD contingent, it seems, are developing a maturity that admits to more emotions than just howling anarchy. Christophe de Bezenac’s tenor saxophone is tunefully jagged: his electronic interventions open the possibilities of sound as sculpture. And The Dors possess something trioVD never had: whimsy and Gallic piquancy, as when Eve Risser sings the one conventional song of the evening, ’Everyone Dies’ by Karen Mantler. 

Indeed, The Dors are quiet as often as they’re loud. It’s avant without the alienation, and the altered states they conjure are really quite nice.  
Chris Sharkey

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