Portico Quartet, Three Trapped Tigers, Gannets Tuesday 20 Nov - London Jazz Festival

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It’ s not often that you get a chance to see three of the most exciting new bands in British jazz on one bill, so it came as no surprise last night when an exuberant audience packed into the sold out Vortex jazz club. Opening the night were the explorative free-jazz group Gannets. A definite emphasis on humour prevented their riotous sound from taking itself too seriously, a lot like the Art Ensemble of Chicago after a hefty shot of adrenaline.
Portico Quartet, Three Trapped Tigers, Gannets  Tuesday 20 Nov - London Jazz Festival
Their extended collective improvisations were high in energy but were also able to maintain focus through an intelligent use of dynamic shifts. By juxtaposing dense periods of free creativeness with subtler instrumental tinkering, the texture of the performance was both eclectic and refreshing.     

Attracting the majority of the audience, Portico Quartet has rapidly become one of the most talked about new bands this year with their delicately hypnotic sound.   The hype however is not undeserved and their debut album, Knee Deep in the North Sea, recently released on the new Vortex label, is proving a huge success amongst their ever-expanding army of youthful fans. The use of the hang instrument added a certain eastern spirituality to the band’s sound, but overall, classical influences merged with a modern European jazz sensibility to create something that was fresh and most definitely British. 

Eclecticism and innovation being the themes of the night; a group like Three Trapped Tigers certainly looked at home on stage.  Attempting to take jazz into the digital age, the trio utilised laptop technology and electronics to forge a synergy between the organic and the synthetic.  Standout drummer of the night, Adam Betts, used digital delays and reverb to enhance his incredible rhythmical drive at the kit.  Sadly however, an overall sense that there were too many buttons to push and simply not enough fingers to press them with made the band look a little unorganised.

Chris Ackerley