(Front Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, February 18th 2011. Review and photo by Roger Thomas)
In this time of squeeze and cutbacks there are few opportunities for one to feel grateful, so thank heavens for the free Front Room sessions know as the Friday Tonic at the QEH.
At the height of Friday commuter time those who were wise enough to take the detour to the QEH were washed from the grime of a week of toil by a young and exhilarant Rhythmica. The neat and confident demeanour of Mark Crown –trumpet, Andy Chapman –drums, Peter Edwards –piano, Peter Randall –bass, with guest appearance from Denys Baptiste –saxophone. This was tonic to revive the weariest of commuters.
Their first set kicked off with Mark Crown having to delve deep into his creative and improvisational bag as they were minus their regular saxophonist– Zem Audu, who I believe was away in the Caribbean, or possibly New York –all right for some, eh. It was even more impressive that the first composition – Time Machine – was penned by the missing Zem. Anyway, Mark held his own and looking around at the packed Front Room the audience were displaying rhythmic nods of approval, not to mention hearty applause.
The set continued on the same creative high as it had begun with each member featuring at various moments adding some extra drama, and ending on a Peter Edwards composition, Triple Threat. During the second set guest saxophonist Denys Baptiste was brought on. With a shift of gear over Delfeayo's Dilemma , a tune by Wynton Marsalis, we were treated to some energised interaction between Andy Chapman and Peter Randall and some great sparring between the sax and trumpet.
The most poignant moment for me was as I was watching from the side, the evening is now drawing in, audience fully attentive and piano an sax are being featured on the John Coltrane composition Naima. Peter Edwards was feeding Denys Baptiste with some amazing chordal structures whilst remaining cucumber cool and clearly deep in introspection.
Now fully entranced by the beauty of this delivery, a thought came to me– wow this is great and comparable to anything from across the Atlantic. Out of my trance I was filled with a great sense of hope that this new generation of musicians are capable of keeping the music fresh and alive in the UK and do hope they continue to be nurtured and given all the support possible. Rhythmica have truly left fledgling Tomorrow's Warriors nest, and are showing a growing maturity.