REVIEW: Laura Jurd Septet Human Spirit album launch at the Forge

Laura Jurd Septet at the Forge
L-R: Colm O'Hara, Alex Roth, Chris Batchelor, Corrie Dick
Lauren Kinsella, Mick Foster (hidden), Laura Jurd

Laura Jurd Septet
(The Forge, Camden Town, Wednesday 14th January 2015. Review by Andy Boeckstaens)

There has been quite a hoo-ha in the last couple of years about the young trumpet player Laura Jurd. Her first album, “Landing Ground”, was very well received, and she has just embarked on an 11-date, Brighton-to-Aberdeen tour to launch her second CD, Human Spirit, the first project for which Jurd has written words.

Jurd’s gig at The Forge in Camden Town - the second stop on the tour – quickly showed what all the fuss is about. During a single set of 80 minutes, the septet rampaged through an expanded version of each piece on the album with a glorious gusto that brought to mind both Loose Tubes and Frank Zappa. Jurd’s trumpet work – more Henry Lowther than Miles Davis – was impressive, but this performance focused more on her composing and arranging than her instrumental prowess. Specifically, it showcased her creations for Dublin-born vocalist Lauren Kinsella, who played a significant role.

Kinsella delivered conventional songs like More Than Just a Fairytale beautifully, and handled brilliantly the close intervals of Blinded, which had Middle Eastern inflections. During She Knew Him, Kinsella became an integral part of the horn section alongside Colm O’Hara’s trombone and Chris Batchelor’s trumpet, and on two occasions used her astonishingly flexible voice to flit, squeak and skitter through an arresting glossolalia that recalled Phil Minton.

With an engaging stage presence, Jurd explained that the jolly Pirates was for (saxophonist) Mark Lockheart, because “I always thought his name reminded me of a pirate”. It bobbed along with the passion of a street band, and Corrie Dick was in his element. Jurd described the percussionist as a “powerhouse”, although I thought his work was fluid, measured and subtle; he rarely let rip.

The episodic Brighter Days was one of the highlights. A duet for Kinsella and Batchelor gave way to a riff by the bass saxophone of Mick Foster, and a lilting Dave Holland-style melody emerged. Guitarist Alex Roth played low tones beneath a fine solo by O’Hara, then tore into a powerful figure that sounded like a variation on the bass line of Alan Shorter’s “Parabola”.

Yes, there were reminders of, and references to, various kinds of (largely English) music all over the place: from the sonority of a brass band and the simplicity of a folk song to the textures of Gil Evans and Carla Bley; from the prog rock of Supertramp to the unpredictable quirks of Kate Bush and Annette Peacock. Jurd’s original and intelligently-fashioned eclecticism resulted in a magnificent and memorable performance by a wonderful ensemble.

It is hard to absorb that this highly developed music has been composed while Jurd is in her very early 20s. One looks forward, with enormous anticipation, to what her amazing brain will conceive in the future.

Part of the music was commissioned by Serious for the 2013 EFG London Jazz Festival. The Human Spirit tour is funded by Arts Council England
LINK: Laura Jurd interview

1 comment:

  1. Sebastian writes: I was at the third gig the following night at Cambridge Modern Jazz in the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane, a great volunteer-run club. It is an intimate space and the septet was good'n'loud!

    I very much concur with Andy about the wide range of influences, and also about the breadth of imagination of Laura Jurd as composer. The range of combinations of voices is wonderful. Last night bass sax and trombone were on the same side, with the guitar and that gave those low voices a real sense of unanimity, tightness of ensemble, even a feeling of bass clef brotherhood.

    Turning back to a review I wrote of Laura Jurd's Dankworth Prize composition from 2011 I found this: “a convincing narrative, building in the full band sections by adding layers and voicings"

    That is still a very strong suit, and draws in the listener's heart and head. The way Laura builds scale and pathos and anthemic quality as each of the compositions develop is mightily impressive.

    A VERY special mention for Corrie Dick who has learnt the whole programme, and played the entire gig from memory which gave it a really solid anchoring. There was a point in the title track human spirit where he took the lead and brought the band out of a free improvising section into a heavy groove. He did that with incredible authority and leadership. Inspiring!