Guitar concert music performance audience Jazz 390.
British pianist Kit Downes and his quintet’s concert at Levontin 7 on Tuesday
was truly a breath of fresh air. Downes was last here in 2010, along with
bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren, when he wowed Levontin 7
audiences with a couple of shows that displayed an impressive range of musical
attacks. In the intervening couple of years, Downes has put out another CD,
Quiet Tiger, and is due to record another next month.
Material from the
latter formed the core of Tuesday’s show, which featured Gourlay and Maddren,
along with reedman James Allsopp – who appeared at the 2006 Jerusalem Jazz
Festival – and cellist Tracy Railton. Judging by the half dozen numbers the band
played, Downes has obviously made great strides in the interim as a composer and
Downes’s musical points of reference say much about where
the 20something pianist comes from. The hour-long set included homages to
pianist Paul Bley and guitarist Bill Frisell, as well as Swedish pianist Jan
Johansson, who died in 1968. The Frisell nod, “Handles,” was a lilting
exploratory escapade that meandered through the soft fabric of a funky
undercurrent into a mini-orchestral jaunt. Snug piano chords jousted with
bittersweet cello and velvety acoustic bass lines and segued into a delightfully
bluesy bass solo before Allsopp moved from clarinet to bass clarinet and
extended and embellished the bluesy sentiment. Maddren deftly played the solid
anchor role throughout but also offered much in the way of textural and rhythmic
Unlike a lot of Israeli jazz musicians, Downes and his
cohorts played very few groove excerpts, and there always seemed to be something
going on, with surprising turns and development constantly cropping up. But
there was never a sense that things might get overly busy, and all the members
of the quintet exuded a sense of fun and calm, even when negotiating the most
intricate of passages.
Hopefully, Downes and his band will make their way
back to these parts again before too long.
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