The contradiction is huge. Outside we get flashes of the moronic group-think that comes with all day drinking and a national football win, whilst inside we get invited to take part in individualistic moments of self-discovery. The differences between the two activities are huge, and let’s thank Narc for putting on a free event which promotes the most progressive elements of our culture, rather than the ones which make us regress to our worst behaviours.
Tonight is Jazz North East’s third year of involvement in the Narc Festival, this year itself part of the wider, hugely impressive, Great Exhibition of the North. Martin Pyne and John Pope kick off the evening with their first ever collaboration. Mellow and expansive, their combination of vibes and bass is interesting to watch and beautiful to listen to.
J Frisco take the evening in it’s most expansive direction with a blend of electronics, Thurston-Moore styled guitar and wind instrumentation. At points close to Bowie’s Blackstar, and Tricky’s darker mid 90’s Trip Hop, the 3-piece blend interesting sonic experimentation with themes concerning the illusion of time and the trappings of the human body. Profoundly interesting and intentionally meditative, Frisco push the potential of music to it’s extreme boundaries.
Archipelago continue tonight’s sense of experimentation, teaming up with piano great Paul Taylor in a one-off collaboration. Driven by a deep funk, early Prince, groove, Archipelago’s set is expansive and thought provoking. Delicate piano supports a lead sax/reed which provides the main focus in a set which fuses jazz with modern garage funk-rock. It’s a performance which you’d like to see carry on past it’s allotted 40 minutes and justifiably earns a huge standing ovation from the crowd.
Last up are the Mark Williams Trio with their blend of guitar driven, highly interesting, original compositions. Though unfair to single out any player, tonight Mark is majestic with guitar lines worthy of comparisons with the very best.
Interesting, engaging and very different, tonight was a tribute to live music and to Narc. A huge acknowledgment should go to all bands, and to Jazz North East, for curating and playing four hours of music that really did promote the very best of music’s potential. Let’s hope that we see more of this and less of the group-think. Great stuff.