The Langston Project

The Langston Project

The Langston Project (Photo: Stephanie Knibbe)

La Dynamo Club, Pantin, Paris, France
By Tony Dudley-Evans

This was the premiere of a new project developed by Jazzlines in Birmingham and the Banlieues Bleues Festival based at La Dynamo club in Pantin Paris.  The concert sets to music some of the poetry of Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance writer of the 1930s to 1950s, a writer deeply engaged with the jazz and the blues of the period.

This was a very impressive first performance; the band had had the luxury of five days of rehearsal, three in Birmingham and two in La Dynamo, in which to develop the music and a small warm up gig in Paris to work it all through.  The result is a unique set of music quite different from anything I have heard for a long time, and it was clear that members of the audience at La Dynamo shared this opinion.  It truly builds on the skills of the four band members, the compositional skills and  distinctive guitar playing of Hasse Poulsen, the love of groove of Luc Ex using the wonderful sound of the acoustic bass guitar, the always inventive and supportive drumming of Mark Sanders, and the tremendous range and accuracy of Elaine Mitchener’s dynamic performance of the songs.

The songs are at the heart of the performance and give it its distinctive character; they vary from the beauty and poignancy of a love song such as The Breath of a Rose, the irony of Luc’s Dream, and the energy and emotion of uptempo songs such as The Midnight Raffle .  The songs and the improvised sections are totally integrated with Elaine moving seamlessly between the words and her improvisations.  On certain songs Elaine is dominant, riding over the top of the band with the words key to the performance, on others she is an equal member of the quartet, still singing the words, but in a style that fits the very strong rhythmic groove that the band always achieves.  And the band really swings with Luc Ex driving the music on, both rhythmically and physically putting tremendous energy into his performance.

The project is a true European project at least as far as the members of the band are concerned.  It is supported by The Jazz Shuttle project which funds jazz projects involving band members from France and UK.  Hasse Poulsen is in fact Danish but has been based in Paris for many years, so counts as French, at least as far the project is concerned, and Luc Ex is French, but lives in Amsterdam.  The two British players are less complicated with Elaine Mitchener living in London, and Mark Sanders living in Birmingham.

The second performance will take place at mac, Cannon Hill Park on Tuesday 5 November at 8pm.  Tickets from 0121-446-3232 or

Categories: Live review

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