Words and pictures by Garry Corbett
Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton UK
All but one of the compositions played by the trio known as Malija at the Arena came from their only album to date The Day I Had Everything. That untitled number featured some of Jasper Høiby’s bowed bass in unison with Mark Lockheart’s tenor saxophone and though recorded at the session for the album didn’t make it onto the issue. A pity because it’s a fine tune illustrating the subtle interplay between the members of the trio. It should certainly be on their second album when it happens.
Their current album features five Lockheart compositions and three each from pianist Liam Noble and bass player Jasper Høiby. Just about everything was played last night and regardless of who wrote what the feeling is always of unity and cohesion with great good humour, evident from the smiles and constant eye contact between the musicians. This communicates clearly to the audience.
My highlights in an evening full of highlights were Almost a Tango (the clue is in the title), Wheels, which opened the first set with some lovely Høiby bass playing, The Pianist, which is dedicated to Duke Ellington – his spectre hovers over it – and Malija.
The latter is named after the trio whose name is made up of the first two letters of each musicians first name. Only afterwards did they discover it to be the name of a town in Slovenia: “We’re hoping to get a gig there,” added Lockheart in his introduction. Liam Noble’s Mr Wrack, named after his technical drawing teacher from school moved from loose free form to an “Elton John-like mid section” before going back to free form. Even when playing “free” the trio never lose sight of the melodic. No fingers across blackboard here.
A final mention of the audience or more worryingly the lack of it. There were about 50 present in a room that by my estimation might hold four or possibly five times that number. The audience present obviously loved what they were hearing and the trio members are individually well-known enough to draw an audience, one would have thought. This gig deserved to be packed to capacity.
The Arena is an intimate venue with exceptional sound. I spoke to their sound man, Peter Maxwell Dixon, after the gig and he modestly put it down to “having some nice toys to play with” but I’ve honestly never had a bad experience sonically in the Arena. In introducing the band MC Martin Shreeve pointed out that “if we are to carry on having jazz music of this quality in Wolverhampton at the Arena Theatre we need your support, so tell your friends and bring them along”.
A great night of music. Keep an eye open for more jazz coming up at this top venue and take your friends along.
Categories: Live review