Oriole at St George's Bristol
Neil McKim enjoys a hugely accessible jazz concert from musicians in the F-IRE Collective
Oriole are an exceptional jazz band. Not only are all the musicians of superb quality but the music itself is completely unlike the recent trend in jazz for unpredictable and angular rhythmic edginess that is usually associated with other F-IRE bands (such as Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear). And musicians such as drummer Seb Rochford here prove that they can diversify into a latin-orientated soundscape.
Sometimes a group will release a track and it’s possible to see why it deserves widespread appeal. Sadly jazz often doesn’t get the promotion it deserves and ‘Sherpa Song’ from Oriole’s current album Every New Day is a case in point. Taking a strong melody and serenely building it up to a climax, this track stays with the listener – much like the Portico Quartet’s early work did.
Guitarist Jonny Philips is the brain behind the group’s compositions, and most of it is influenced by the music he has absorbed from visiting and living in Cadiz in Spain. At a recent concert at St George's in Bristol, the band played a set of tunes that created a gentle, shimmering atmosphere, aptly reflecting the evening sunlight outside that hall.
The whole set was engaging, with tracks such as ‘Mountain Flower’ building up from a guitar solo with a soaring melody by tenor saxophonist Idris Rahman, set over Rochford’s dusty snare brushes and Gili Lopez’s rippling bass. The piece then dissolved to just Rochford, keeping the Brazilian baiao-style pulse going on his bass drum, before the ensemble blended it into another piece – ‘Sintra’.
Cellist Ben Davis also plays a pivotal role in Oriole – his own group, Basquiat Strings, were in support – proving the cello is a fantastic jazz instrument. The work ‘Bertha’, begins with a duo between sax and cello which has an almost Mozartian quality. Philips revealed to the audience that it’s named after both his grandmothers.
But saving the best for last, Oriole played out with ‘Sherpa Song’, a track which like Oriole themselves, deserves far wider recognition.