Nikki Iles, Norma Winstone- The Printmakers
Pizza Express Dean Street, Monday October 19th 2009
The Printmakers project, originates from the creative partnership of Nikki Iles and Norma Winstone. The band had its first outing in May in Derby, has been on tour, and finally arrived in London to a very warm reception at a packed Pizza Express last night.
This is band is only just starting to make its mark. I heard one early outing in Cambridge, and the gain in confidence, in stature, in presence is palpable. May in Cambridge was about searching for a distinctive spirit. Last night I felt again and again that I detected from all the protagonists the pure joy about having found it. Yes, this band really is starting to bring something different. People will take time to latch on to these things...I hope it becomes a must-have for 2009 Festivals from Moers to Monterey.
One of the joys of hearing the Printmakers is a constantly gathering storm of melodic ideas. The speed with which imitative counterpoint is being traded around the stand is mesmerising. But there's no sense of a cutting-edge cutting contest. Everything in this band is shared. The moment it's out there it's up for grabs, it's public property. This is a band where they seem to want to give each other presents. There is always the challenge to resolve, to make all the interplay supportive, pleasing, rather than in-your-face competitive.
Players like left-field world-class guitar giant Mike Walker and that towering presence in British jazz Stan Sulzmann (in Cambridge it was Mark Lockheart) seem to absolutely thrive on this challenge. They visibly enjoy it, and where's the harm in that? And there is surely no anchor more solid and creative, for a band with needs this freedom, than bassist Steve Watts. The drum chair last night was joyously occupied by the ever-inventive Tim Giles (in Cambridge it was Steven Keogh).
I particularly enjoyed Make Someone Happy. Stan Sulzmann and Mike Walker managed to combine demonic complexity with extrovertly playing out to the crowd. They got the whoops and the cheers which they deserved. But it was the final solo of poise, delicacy and smiling restraint from Nikki Iles which got the loudest cheer.
I can only respond to this level of creativity with a five star review, and I'm looking forward to hearing Printmakers again.