CBSO Centre, Birmingham UK
This trio – Django Bates on piano, Petter Eldh on double bass and Peter Bruun – was formed so that Bates could explore his love for the music of Charlie Parker. So its first album, Bird (2010), was, with two exceptions, filled with music Parker either wrote or like to play.
By the time the band was ready to record a second, Confirmation (2012) Parker was still a prime inspiration but the compositional mix had changed, with two of Bates’ tunes for every one or Parker’s.
This concert, the band’s second visit to the CBSO Centre, moved that trend still further, with the Parker pieces – Scrapple From The Apple, My Little Suede Shoes, Confirmation, Donna Lee, Ah-Leu-Cha and Now’s The Time among them, getting some serious Django cut, paste, stretch and squeeze.
Of course, it’s a highly logical move – as are all Bates’s artistic decisions in my book – because why play a whole Parker bebop classic head in full when a mere scrap of notes from time to time is enough to make the reference, to ascertain what playground we’re in here?
In the notes to the first album, Django refers to a critic at one of Beloved’s early gigs claiming that Bird would be turning in his grave. Well, there’s a classic case of the misguided elevation of Parker’s music into some kind of hallowed canon right there; on the contrary, I can’t believe Parker would have been anything but chuckling with delight at last night’s concert.
And not only at what Bates, Eldh and Bruun were doing to his music – Parker would surely have been fascinated by the way Bates and the players have such fun and games with time, just as he did, with creativity, just as he did, and with moving the music forward into places it has never been before, just as he did.
We were treated to two generous sets completely devoid of longeuers and saturated with highs. In amongst the Parkers were Bates’ Sadness All The Way Down, Peonies As Promised and others I didn’t catch the names of. Peonies was a highpoint in the first set, and a particular equivalent in the second set was a lengthy through-composed piece that Bates sight-read.
All were jammed with those things I love about his music – the fidgety time signatures, the pauses and surges, the chords and phrases tight and muscular one minute, blowsy and blooming the next – just like those peonies.
And in Bruun and Eldh, Bates has found musicians able to guess where he’s going almost before he has decided himself.
Eldh is mightily strong, accurate and driving, which gives Bruun the space to do what he loves best – to phrase with Bates, to colour and comment, drawing so much eloquence from vellum, cymbal and stick I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had begun to talk.
An evening of music which astounded, delighted, amused and enriched. I don’t know if there is an emoticon that combines eyebrows arched in amazement coupled with an ear-to-ear smiley face, but that would have summed up my mood last night.
Oh, and only Django Bates would choose to fit into a solo the briefest snatch of La Cucaracha. Genius.
Categories: Live review