Tuxedomoon - Purcell Room, Monday 19 Nov - London Jazz Festival

Although it ironically stood out as their leitmotif, time wasn’t on Tuxedomoon’s side last Monday night. The small Purcell Room struggled hard to accommodate 30 years of prolific, artistic collaborations, celebrated in the album Vapour Trails (11/2007). Seconds after the five ubiquitous, polyglot, multi-instrumentalist, San Francisco legends walked onstage, Peter Principle’s silent amp aborted the wild cheer of the eclectic audience.

Tuxedomoon - Purcell Room, Monday 19 Nov - London Jazz Festival
45 minutes later, the band opened on the heavy, wired, uncanny calm of a Buddhist-tinged mantra over road-movie-themed slides, captured by Blaine L. Reininger (vocalist, violinist, guitarist). The second piece then liberated Tuxedomoon’s unequalled mastery at creating and orchestrating the unexpected. Steve Brown (clarinettist, saxophonist, vocalist) struck hypnotic, tribal rhythms at the piano and ranted: “no one writes these things down because there’s no time”; Reininger veered to organic, “hendrixtic”, whining effusions, symbiotically contrasting with trumpeter Luc van Lieshout’s delicately smothered, razor-sharp, refined Cool jazz motifs.

Likewise, the setting reflected their success at defying conventions and reordering chaos. The cluttered stage featured a grand piano, while winds and strings surrounded a table, covered with video artist Tommy Tadlock’s psychedelic toys and audiovisual paraphernalia, opposite a giant white screen in the background. After the hip-hop groove and Miles touch of ‘Still Small Voice’, Tadlock visually tackled the flight of time as he mimed a man running around, frantically looking at his watch with four masks on each side of his head. Simultaneously, behind Reininger’s violin’s Irish harmonies, Browne sang: “There’s no time to lose”.

The musical journey further flew across space and time from the edgy ‘Kubrick’ to a climactic closing brew of Persian-inspired vocal laments, Cool jazz motifs, and pulsating techno beats. Bringing chaos into harmony clearly defines Tuxedomoon’s signature. After Shakespeare, they may well be the Masters of discordia concors. The rest is just a matter of taste.

Aurore Mary