Native Dancer, Kinkajous and Olivia's Owls
(The Lexington, 3rd March 2015. Review by Dan Bergsagel)
'Post-jazz' is not a term to be used lightly – perhaps for obvious reasons - but on Tuesday night it truly encapsulated the progressive stance held by the three groups that featured at the Lexington. It was an evening of EPs (each local band showcasing recent work) and an evening emphasising ambiance and texture, ably aided by a sound technician with an ear for warm bass.
Olivia's Owl launched proceedings with endearing patter about pyjamas and non-fiction essays as bassist and composer Hedi Pinkerfeld laid the bedrock for tenor explorations and tight rhythmic sequences. Their open pared down setup was contrasted by the following acts' embrace of the wonders of on-stage electronica. Kinkajous' dedicated electronics man Rick Timpton stood amongst cables and laptops adding to the cool high speed cymbal taps of drummer Benoît Parmentier. With tight and refined compositions, their sound stands favourably abreast with folk-jazz popularisers Portico Quartet or experimental electro acoustic Jaga Jazzist, perhaps an irresistible reference thanks to Adrien Cau's beautiful bass clarinet work.
However the future truly arrived with Native Dancer: their synths and samplers easily outnumbering the quintet as they worked to emulate the mood of their high production record. Each with a number of toys to play with in addition to their primary instrument, there was not a moment left without layers of sound being daubed on or phased in and out. Frida Touray's rich voice and stories of love and revenge led the line as the group played with an easy rapport to a home crowd, mixing the odd cover into their set of brooding ballads and pensive breaks. Their eclectic influences peaked through, with Sam Crowe and his keys bringing in Fat Freddy’s Drop dub electronics and late period Zero 7 grooves.
Native Dancer were at their strongest when in full instrumental flow, such as in single Love, with the switch from lethargic opening to Jon Harvey's rapid jabbing bass powered by Ulysses hyperactive drums, together providing the high-energy backdrop for Josh Arcoleo on tenor. These live moments provided a visceral counterpart to their clean pop debut EP, full of bouncy bass, compressed drums, clean piano and reverbed sax.
Unexpectedly, one of the most successful fusions of the evening saw Touray join Kinkajous on stage. Given a melody to explore and a controlled house beat to support, her voice shone. This is what is so important to the London jazz scene: this ever-lurking potential for musical crossover. With musicians of the calibre of Arcoleo shifting nightly from exciting contemporary jazz sextets like Mike Chillingworth's to hybrid jazz acts like Native Dancer, evenings like this are pregnant with new talent. Parading under a Wayne Shorter album name, it might be tempting to assume Native Dancer to be nostalgic post-bop or jazz fusion. But it is instead the spirit of his famous 1974 album - that popular openness and genre-crossing fusion – that is being kept alive.