15th May | Trinity
If you’re ever in Old Market on a Wednesday night, I urge you to head to the Stag and Hounds for karaoke, hosted by Pete Bennett of Big Brother fame It’s easily the best way to start and end a night out if you happen to be floating around the area after a few pints. A brief flirtation with karaoke and a pint of Amstel later, I headed to Trinity Centre for an evening filled with contemporary jazz and compelling musicianship.
Support for the evening was Laura Misch. I saw her perform alongside her brother, Tom last summer at Love Supreme Festival, so I was pretty excited to hear a solo set from her. She performed a glistening set of songs from her back catalogue, including some fresher ones from her recent EP, Lonely City. A white sphere was suspended from the ceiling, which made for a dramatic backdrop. All sorts of coloured lights were projected, which made for a visual landscape for her tunes.
Switching between her saxophone and two microphones for extra reverb, Laura’s voice was velvety, with similarities to Grace Slick. ‘Glass Shards’ and ‘Blue Dot’ were personal highlights of a magnetic set. Delivering each song with charisma and down-to-earth charm, Laura was humbled by the roaring applause which followed her set. She was one wave short of an encore. We were all woozy and wanting more.
Alfa Mist and his four-man band all strutted coolly onto the stage to massive applause; he humbly took his place, centre stage, at his keyboard. Everyone gets down to it. No frills, no introduction, just straight-up jazz. It begins with some tight drumming and a cornet intro before all join in, bar guitarist Jamie Leeming who enters an almost transcendental state, eyes shut and nodding along to the music that’s unraveling. After what I can only describe as the best-rehearsed jam ever, Alfa said to the crowd, “I’m really happy to be here and I’m really happy with the new album.”
The dynamic of the band was a little static, barely any interaction with one another apart from when Alfa would look at drummer Peter Adam Hill after an erratic drum solo or would nod in time to trumpet player Johnny Woodham. It all felt a little disjointed and lacked a little togetherness. Maybe that’s just how the jazz scene flows in London. The night also saw a few stellar rapping performances from Alfa. The transition from ‘Closer’ then evolved into ‘Glad I Lived’, which featured a handful of engaging lyrics such as the references to “chicken shops and bevvys”.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gig that’s involved so many rounds of applause, after a sickeningly supreme solo from any given member there’s always – and rightfully so – a massive cheer along with an even louder one at the end. It did feel a little textbook at times, keys solo/applause, trumpet solo/applause, drum solo/applause. They stuck to this structure for a large majority of the set which did become formulaic at times. I felt a little confused after the gig. Alfa is an incredibly talented musician and producer in his own write; I just couldn’t help but feel that the band didn’t loosen up.
Highlights included a touching story behind the inspiration of his song ‘Jjajja’s Screen’ and blissful backing vocals and tight basslines from Kaya Thomas-Dyke. An encore lasting twenty minutes was also a treat. If you’re a big jazz-head then their musicianship is inspirational – absolutely.
See the video for ‘Retainer’ here: