REVIEW: Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet at the Vortex

Louis Moholo-Moholo
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield


Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet.
(Vortex, 9 September 2017. Review and photos by Patrick Hadfield)


Now based in his native South Africa, Louis Moholo-Moholo is a regular visitor to Europe, and he made a very welcome return for two sold-out nights at the Vortex. Moholo is adept in ensembles of various sizes, from big bands such as Brotherhood of Breath and the Dedication Orchestra, smaller groups such as Viva La Black (a septet when they played London Jazz Festival in 2010) through to duos. For these gigs, he brought a quartet, all long-time collaborators, a cut down version of his latest quintet, Five Blokes, Shabaka Hutchings unfortunately not able to make these shows.

But the four men on stage made an awfully big sound, filling the Vortex with a glorious noise. Across two sets featuring several tunes from former band mates in Brotherhood of Breath coupled with interludes of searing free jazz, the band swung, rocked and excited. Pianist Alexander Hawkins played thundering, rolling chords; Jason Yarde played fast, fluid and exciting alto and soprano – one time, both at once – and finished the gig playing baritone. John Edwards' bass playing matched them, at times pounding out riffs, at others playing tremendous walking lines, and still others using his bow to produce sonorous chords or additional percussive phrases.

It was clear who was directing things. From behind his drum kit, as one tune came to a close, Moholo would repeatedly shout the name of the next tune: "B My Dear! B My Dear!"or "You ain't gonna know me - You ain't gonna know me", and the band would switch mood in a beat. Moholo's drumming was quite low key but energetic and emphatic. He played a lot of patterns on his snare drum, occasionally falling into the gentlest swing rhythm on the cymbals.

It was an evening of passionate music. There were few breaks between tunes, one morphing into another without space for applause – by the time the audience had caught up, the band were in the middle of another number. On Zanele, all four musicians joyfully chanted as they played. Other numbers sounded like African spirituals. The free sections drove the music one way and another. Mongezi Feza's You Ain't Gonna Know Me Just Because You Know Me was heralded by an extended solo from Edwards, before leading into its emotional, powerful riff. They played numbers by, I think, Dudu Pukwana (B My Dear), Harry Miller (Lost Opportunities), Johnny Dyani (Ithi Gui), and Chris McGregor: when they played Moholo's own frenetic For the Blue Notes, it felt like they were summarising the whole gig.

At the close of the second set, Moholo apologised that the band didn't know any more tunes – though they played one final encore. The applause continued long after the band had left the stage, squeezing through the audience to leave. A joyful, exciting evening of music.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

Alexander Hawkins
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield

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