Mehliana plus Sons of Kemet by Ilya Fedorov – EFG London Jazz Festival 21 November 2013


Excitement by the unknown. That is definitely what Mehliana feat. Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana and the four of Sons of Kemet (Hutchings, Marshall, Skinner & Rochford) cast upon the attendees of the EFG London Jazz Festival gig last night, 21 November at Barbican Center unveiling universal mysteries by genesis of music. Provocative and exuberant, Mehldau on piano and Giuliana on drums hit with their first major appearance on the British jazz scene. Coming seemingly from deeper space their cosmic art embraced the audience with a feeling of distancing first and getting involved onwards. Experimenting with the structure of tunes they improvised leaving ends open with minimum instruments to produce maximum effect. You could not but get thrilled by Mehldau virtuoso playing grand-piano, Rhodes and two synth-keyboards combining their controversial sounding to create a true sonic integrity from what initially seemed noisy chaos. Giuliana's drumming involved technical novelties processing voice and 'space' sounds adding to the common picture alluding to the classical image of Universe born in agony, transforming, structuring, defying itself. Rhythmical beats and prolonged 15-min pieces feat. stunning solos left no one indifferent, while side noises heard randomly from the audience fitted well into the storming whirl of sound that night.

Second set by Sons of Kemet made you travel forth in time and space along the path of music evolution. The group feat. prolific clarinet-saxist Shabaka Hutchings, energetic Oren Marshall on tuba and both fierce Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford on drums. Their playing ranging from aggressive early tribal dance-beats and tiger-like roaring to elegant and vibrant melodies. In-trend drum duo accompanied by a horn-like wind suggested return to the originals, African-Carribean ancestors, fathers of jazz, who were major influences on the band's music. While tuba and drums fitted into the 'pre-historic' styling in the best way possible, saxophone and clarinet seemed guest-instruments from far future invading with their delicate Arabic tuning (clarinet) or belligerent New Orleans' swinging (sax). Despite certain influences band's music credited personality of each member contributing to the general philosophy.

Conceptual thread sewing the night wavered when harmonic metamorphoses by Mehliana lacked visual effects only backed by static lighting. While rhythmical magic by Sons of Kemet seemingly cast spell on space and got accompanied by lavish visualization.

What first seemed bizarre and chaotic musical patterns transformed into most coherent and consecutive vision of music and eventually the world itself. Its free interpretation by true masters reflected the very essence of today's approach to jazz, as a means of creating the reality we live in, or rather improving it, making more perceptive and comprehensible through music, which appealed to both hearts and minds of people.

- Ilya Fedorov