Laura Mvula, Melt Yourself Down and Alina Bzhezhinska leading lights at London's crossover Love-in at Roundhouse

 Mvula

Love Supreme continue to expand the brand by bringing an all-day jamboree of jazz-and-related-musics to London's Roundhouse, following their success last year. That event was dominated by the emergent New London Jazz scene – this year’s different, highly diverse line-up provides an interesting snapshot into where we are now.

Representing the old school, Hexagonal are in the packed upstairs bar for Jazz In The Round, showing the youngsters in the crowd how it’s done. It’s a tight, punchy 45-minute exploration of the inexorably grooving, powerfully melodic legacy of leader John Donaldson’s twin muses McCoy Tyner and Bheki Mseleku, with Jason Yarde on alto leading the soloists in playing tag-team over Tristan Bank’s hyperactively flexible kit.

Supreme Standards fills up for Dowdelin’s super-soulful Kreol-inflected electro-pop, spiced with Caribbean flavours and rooted by Raphael Philibert’s Gwa-Ko drum.

Nobody would ever accuse Judi Jackson of understatement, but she certainly has plenty of star quality. She fills the big room with her personality, in fishnets and wispily draped scarlet gauze. Fortunately, she has ample vocal ability to back it up. Yet, despite her excellent young band’s best efforts, there’s a dearth of really memorable material to hang all the talent upon.

Layfullstop dispenses with the band to lay out a crisp, London accented singjay act, her agile delivery and stage presence drawing universal appreciation from the capacity crowd. 

Back upstairs in the bar, Liran Donin furnishes unfortunate proof of the old adage about everyone talking through bass solos. You have to push to the front to appreciate his virtuosic Avishai Cohen stylings, but with the help of some sterling work from drummer Ben Brown he ends up winning the day.

No such problems beset Melt Yourself Down; their punky art-skronk has one dynamic level – full-on – and their frontman Kushal Gayan is all infectious  passionate intensity. Leader Pete Wareham looks like a cross between a gaucho garage mechanic and an Inquisition-era cardinal in his boilersuit and signature hat.

Back at the Jazz In The Round, Alina Bzhezhinska has packed such a crowd in with her new trio that it’s impossible to move. Who would have thought that jazz harp could be such a draw? She lays out the Alice Coltrane/Dorothy Ashby moves with her usual aplomb to rapturous reception. New kids on the grime/jazz fusion block Neue Grafik delight with a set featuring the talents of Emma-Jean Thackray on trumpet and Vels Trio’s Dougal Taylor on drums. 

Kamaal Williams offers his customary four-to-the-floor jam session in the big room upstairs, but the low-end gets lost in the cavernous space and much of the vibe goes with it. Jay Phelps’ contributions as surprise guest on trumpet add some welcome focus.

Laura Mvula's engineer isn’t daunted by the challenge of the Roundhouse’s legendarily difficult acoustic and the sound is clear and massive. Her band is scaled back to an all-star trio of Oli Rockberger, Troy Miller and Yolanda Charles, and she stands well forward, a tiny figure in white, armed only with her keytar and her huge voice. The mass keyboard textures point out her music’s essential kinship to the ambitious pop of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. In between she chats to the crowd like a true pop star. We’ve travelled a fair distance from jazz as it’s often understood, but this broad church approach is what Love Supreme does best, and noone seems to be complaining.

Eddie Myer 
– Photo by Adrian Brown

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