The Blessing, Matt and Phreds Jazz Club, Manchester, 30 January 2008

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Word had clearly got around that this visit to Manchester from Bristol based
quirksters The Blessing was worth checking out and being favoured by luminaries including Portishead and Robert Plant no doubt assured a degree of interest from outside the usual jazz rank and file. I caught The Blessing down in Bath a few weeks ago and was very impressed but uncertain whether they could whip up a similar storm on an away match. The Blessing, Matt and Phreds Jazz Club, Manchester, 30 January 2008
My fears were unfounded as they put on another great, if ever so slightly less intense show.  The general vibe and a few specific motifs referenced the Polar Bear sound but there's a distinctly grittier funkier groove than the Londoners go for. Drummer Clive Deamer's drive and feel was quite delicious, pushing the whole thing along with an uplifting, smiley vibrancy.

The Blessing have no overtly chordal instrument in the line-up. This gives the sound a sense of openness and provides plenty of harmonic freedom for the mash and interplay of the lines from sax player Jake McMurchie and trumpeter Pete Judge. I loved the shamelessly bright and aggressive tone of bassist Jim Barr. It's refreshing to hear such unabashed plectrum riffing in the context of a jazz set.

Much of the material had Caravan-esque 'fez' minor movements reminiscent of Parker's 'Night in Tunisia' and tunes of that ilk. One or two rockabilly shuffles sneaked in occasionally and there was some prodigious use of noise terror delay effects to keep the tonalities suitably off balance. Pizza referencing track titles delivered with suitably laconic dryness from Mr. Barr completed the left field nudge of this cool little combo.

Review: Adrian Stevenson