Review: Len Aruliah Sextet and Tori Freestone Trio at the Salisbury

Tori Freestone. June 2012. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved

Len Aruliah Sextet and Tori Freestone Trio
(Jazz at the Salisbury. 3rd June 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

You have to remind yourself, it is not every day that you hear jazz musicians of such quality in the modest backroom of one of Harringay's best-loved hostelries. But it has become a regular occurrence with the fortnightly ‘Jazz at The Salisbury’ over the past few months, and Tori Freestone and Len Aruliah, leading a high calibre trio and sextet respectively, gave two of the most notably articulate performances of the current series to round off these spring sessions perfectly.

Freestone and Aruliah, two rising sax players covering different parts of the spectrum, could not fail to impress with their richly personal voices, range and command.

Tori Freestone was fluent with subtle phrases, and delicate asides, and it was a combination of her drive and that rare ability of seeming to speak through the instrument - in this case her formidable matt silver tenor sax - and control every syllable, that engaged the attention. She didn't fall in to the trap of serving up the quotidien, rather she worked in and around the repertoire to fashion her own vocabulary and come up with captivatingly understated and original statements.

Freestone was adroitly complemented by her inspired rhythm section of Tim Giles (drums) and Dave Manington (double bass), well versed in the art of the finely tuned response, and both making names for themselves in their own rights. Manington and Freestone, it should be noted, are also part of the vibrant E17 Collective. The trio's playing was economical, concentrated, but in a lightly pressed way. Working through Freestone compositions, including 'In the Top House', a reference to a Manchester pub and 'Pottering' - Chris Potter is one of Freestone's favourite sax players, they teased out the tunes and made space for solos by Giles, walloping out some nodal pinpoints, and Manington, springing brightly off the rhythms, while Freestone, standing back, would chip in a few essential notes as reminders of the melody and structure, in her beautifully balanced, inventive and quietly complex delivery.

Len Aruliah's sextet was immediately defined by the way they gathered themselves closely around him as their focal point, just to the right of centre stage, with the drums out at its far edge, the tightly-knit ensemble gelling really well together on what was, as Aruliah announced, the group's London premiere. The sheer panache of their playing brought a smile to the face.

Opening with the unaccompanied brass front line of Ollie Weston (tenor), Magnus Dearness (trombone) and Aruliah, striding out with a richly discursive alto solo, the sound was gradually built up by the flux of David Frankel's electric piano and the neatly nuanced combination of Julie Walkington (bass) and Roy Dodds (drums). 'Marginally Friends' saw Weston and Dearness stake out the territory before Aruliah turned in an ebullient, fast-moving soprano sax solo, which like Freestone earlier, referenced the heritage, but took the drift way beyond the obvious. Dearness's mellow interlude and Weston's expansive tenor solo on 'Unstrung' prefaced a big-band blend to the brass and the township jive of the final number had the sextet split up and reform effortlessly, kicking out jabs and flying uppercuts, swapping solos, with Dodds just clapping out the beats with his hands.

I'm already looking forward to September , when ‘Jazz at the Salisbury’ resumes its tremendous programme, showcasing some of the best of the fresh and established talents on the scene.

Len Aruliah Sextet
Len Aruliah – alto/soprano saxophones
David Frankel – keyboards
Ollie Weston – tenor saxophone
Julie Walkington – bass
Magnus Dearness – trombone
Roy Dodds – drums

Tori Freestone Trio
Tori Freestone – tenor sax
Dave Manington – double bass
Tim Giles – drums

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