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Sound Prints: interactive telepathy that's "breathtaking to behold"

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Tuesday November 25, 2014

From The Arts Desk
By Thomas Rees

*Charles Lloyd / Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas, Barbican
A jazz festival finale of rare brilliance*

It’s not easy to write about a gig when you’re still shaking with adrenaline, still less so when that gig is the grand finale of the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival, the climax to a giddy ten days of world-class contemporary music. But it’s a cross I’ll have to bear, because last night’s performance from legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd and jazz giants tenorist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas demands it.

Appearing as part of their Sound Prints quintet, completed by young pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda Oh and the ebullient Joey Baron on drums, it was Douglas and Lovano who took the stage first. Described by the trumpeter as “a chance to think about the musical legacy, the life and the spirit of Wayne Shorter”, the group have been touring intermittently for the past 3 years and are due to release their debut album early in 2015 on the Blue Note label. If this appearance was anything to go by it’ll be a formidable contender for jazz album of the year because Sound Prints are breathtaking to behold.

Eschewing conventional structures and forms, they play flighty, malleable music, a tapestry of fragmented melodies, explosive swing, groove and textural free improvisation that feels as if it can go anywhere. Displaying the sort of interactive telepathy that only comes through intimate knowledge of your collaborators and their playing, the rhythm section pushed and pulled at the time, responding to the subtlest of cues from their leaders and flitting between musical metres just when you thought you’d caught up. Solos seemed to begin and end on a whim, with the horn players in particular in the habit of sharing ideas and finishing one another’s sentences.

Opening with Lovano’s “Sound Prints”, the band segued into a wayward, exploratory composition by Douglas called “Sprints” which incorporated the sublist of references to the Wayne Shorter classic “Footprints”. (A rhythmically altered quote from the bassline and just a whisper of the melody at the very end). Then came two compositions written for the group by Shorter himself, “Destination Unknown” and “To Sail Beyond the Sunset”. The latter began with warm colours and an elegant melody that appeared in different guises throughout the piece, closing with a cadenza in which Douglas leaned over and played into Lovano’s saxophone mic, producing an airy, flute-like sound.

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