Troyk-estra review by Miranda Schiller EFG London Jazz Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall 23 November 2013


Can a spontaneous, abstract trio like Troyka work with something as traditional as a big band? The answer is yes, Troyk-estra combines the two with ease. And moreover, it shows how a big band can grow beyond its traditional identity.


The core trio Troyka are Kit Downes on keys, Chris Montague on guitar, and Josh Blackmore on drums. They are known for their frequent unexpected changes of mood, alternating between powerful energetic outbursts and calm, complicated lines of unpredictable rhythm and abstract melodies. With the big band, of course, there is less room for free improvisation. But this does not make the music less unique.


The horn section adds a vibrant and upbeat quality to the music, they provide a constant source of energy. Not at all static, and although more predictable by nature, their sound still has a certain wildness to it. They also improvise, and vary the music spontaneously. This works, it loosens the structure up, without ending up in chaos.


The core trio, while not completely dominating the band, are nonetheless the driving force of this group. Their creative and varied approach to their music is supported and solidified by the big band, so it seems as if they had even more freedom to wander in unknown territory, because a safe framework is set. This leads to a wonderful array of improvised beauty.


Originally a commission from Jazzwise, Troyka have built their Troykestra out of young musicians from the Royal Academy of Music to perform as part of Jazzwise's 15th birthday celebrations at Ronnie Scott's. Everyone involved felt the project should go on, so it did. Troyk-estra recorded a live album (called Troykestra) and played more shows. They have not announced any further concerts though, the future of the project is uncertain. It can only be hoped that it will be continued, as it is a signpost for a possible, and desirable, development for big bands in general.

Mirand Schiller