PREVIEW: –isq at The Forge. Wed. 19th Feb

-isq: Chris Nickolls, Richard Sadler, Irene Serra, John Crawford

Alison Bentley previews -isq at the Forge:

Vocalist Irene Serra fronts this excellent band- they’ll be playing their self-penned songs from the 2012 album -isq (Cheesepeas Records) as well as a new album, out this autumn. They take their influences from far and wide:

- Irene Serra grew up in Italy, studying with Tiziana Ghiglioni and has some of the latter’s rhythmic lightness of touch, or Elis Regina’s delicacy. Serra was a finalist at the 2009 Shure Montreux Jazz Competition, and studied jazz at London's Guildhall School. Elsewhere, she can happily swing and improvise like Anita O'Day, but in this band she doesn't sound as if she's singing in any one particular style- she sounds as if she's being herself. Her love-lorn lyrics are witty and wry, and her improvising understated and highly musical.

- There's a large helping of Scandinavian-flavoured jazz: e.s.t. in their spacey use of strong repeated piano hooks, or the Tingvall Trio's mix of rock and classical chords. Drummer Chris Nickolls is key here - he uses jazz, funk, drum 'n' bass and electronic drum styles (like some of Mark Guiliana's work with Gretchen Parlato). There are thoughtful ballads too.

- Indie rock also plays its part: Serra is a fan of Bjork and sometimes has that breathy creakiness in her voice, as well as Bjork’s intensity. Bassist Richard Sadler was a founding member of Neil Cowley's trio and creates sinewy but subtle rock and jazz grooves..

- Pianist John Crawford brings world music elements to the group. There are unusual time signatures (11/8!) that sound Eastern European. Crawford is also in demand as a Latin specialist and adds a seasoning of tango and samba, having played with the likes of Airto Moreira. His playing in -isq has a crisp lyricism..

Naming the parts and people doesn't give a sense of what they're like as a band- there's drama, beauty and emotional engagement. The musicians listen intently to each other throughout their compelling arrangements and solos. It’s a wonderfully original sound. I've been listening to their album for a year now, and still haven't tired of it..

–isq at The Forge, Delancey St., Camden. Wed. 19th Feb. 2014 / TICKETS

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