The Red Lion, Birmingham UK
Trumpeter Laura Jurd brought her regular Quartet band mates – Elliot Galvin on piano, Conor Chaplin on electric bass and Corrie Dick on drums – to the upstairs Club Room of this excellent Jewellery Quarter pub, together with a whole sheaf of original music.
Some of the charts were from her 2012 debut album Landing Ground, though here unadorned by added string quartet parts; some went back further or were perhaps more recent. And it is these charts that lift the Laura Jurd Quartet way above the heads and shoulders of most of the other twentysomething bands currently gigging in this country, good as those bands are.
The written music lifts the band not only in its sophistication of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic content. (Content which is saturated with ideas and development. Jurd uses that age-old truism that was as valid for Earth, Wind and Fire as it was for Mozart: why give a piece one good tune, when you can give it three good ones and entwine them all?) The music also lifts the band in that it suggests a way it needs to be played. These are compositions which call for a whole fresh musical vocabulary, a fresh vernacular, a new accent with which they should be expressed.
Jurd leads from the front with a trumpet sound rich and nuanced, favouring a folky skirl and quick, articulated repeated notes and phrases. She builds her solos like she arranges and develops her compositions, from quiet beginnings to slow builds of considerable range. If you were to dash downstairs for another pint of Bathams just after the beginning of a tune, and got back to hear it at its climax, you’d find yourself in a completely different musical world. The gentle has become the rampaging in the matter of a few minutes and yet in such a natural way.
A generous two sets included Blues In D, Happy Sad Song (with Galvin niftily quoting from Harold Arlen’s Get Happy during his piano solo), The Lady of Bruntál, No Man Is An Island (though without its sung John Donne lyrics), Landing Ground, Raw On The Inside, Country Maidens, Sognefjord and Corrie’s Theme (for her drummer).
The group’s performance revealed the kind of dynamic control that only comes with time and regular gigging – despite the fact that some of the band look like they should still be at school, they sound like they have a couple of decades of history together.
At the start of Landing Ground, the quiet introduction was complemented perfectly by the sudden cries of seagulls, heard through the open windows on this warm summer evening. Laura Jurd has so much musical talent she doesn’t really need the assistance of Mother Nature, but it’s nice to know the birds also want to shout about her.
Many thanks to Birmingham Jazz for such an enriching and inspiring evening of the most marvellous music, most marvellously played. A triumph.