Davey Payne, Terry Day, Neil Charles + others, May 13, 2015: Shows I’ll Never Forget

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At Cafe Oto, London: You know when you are at a good gig when you find yourself suddenly laughing out loud. Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at Café Oto saw something magical happen: Not only did one of the best combinations I have seen for a long time — years, perhaps — come together and play but a certain something extra filled the air, a happy little genie played with everyone there.

The 5 musicians playing — no name — consisted of Terry Day on drums, Pat Thomas on piano, Alan Wilkinson on saxes and bass clarinet, Neil Charles on Bass and Davey Payne on saxes, sirens, whistle.
The evening began with a duet between Pat Thomas and Terry Day. Pat’s playing is definitely left side of left and the rhythms and musical shapes he created were perfectly foiled by the punctuated patterns set up by Terry Day. After a short duet, the rest of the musicians joined them and this is when the magic of the night really began to weave its spell. The genie was out of the bottle and decided to make mischief. The combination was excellent with each musician listening, hearing and adding to the conversation set up, making noise when required but taking time out when needed too.

Terry plays drums with a mesmeric tick-tock rhythm, each part of his body joins in although each part is not necessarily playing the rhythm in the same time. Every limb of his body seems to move to an independent beat, but the whole makes a unity which drives the music forward. He never stops playing apart from the briefest of pauses and is completely engaging. Alan Wilkinson is a revelation: His instinctive, carnal interpretation of music is impressive, as is his dexterity and mastery of the instruments. Interspersing solos with deep, growling voice parts, Alan adds color, subtle hues and instigates changes to the patterns within the music.

Neil Charles on bass is a formidable player and very interpretive, backing up when needed but also adding his own flourishes at just the right moments, encouraging the others in a change of tempo or emphasis. Pat Thomas on piano is one of those players who can come to the fore with a force which comes from his life, his drive and his gift with the keys — and then, just as suddenly, disappear into the mists behind other musicians, interspersing notes, adding riffles and texture to the music but never dominating, a wonderful musician. At times, he tinkles and twinkles whilst at others he bashes the piano to within a short note of its existence, tweaking out sounds and string effects which explore every aspect of the instrument.

Davey Payne proved in great form on saxes, throwing shapes, interpreting the melody or riffs set up by the others, adding his own insights, providing highlights with his solos — and veering from at times mesmeric, spiritual high notes to visceral, challenging, stretching music which engaged the entire audience. His sax sang, sighed, vented demons and downright stretched itself to beyond its limits, given a life of its own by the understanding and mastery of the player in whose hands it was so lucky to find itself.

The combination was very special and worked to such an extent that, at one time, a glance around the audience revealed absolutely everyone concentrating intently on what was happening in front of them. This is what free music is all about: It unfurls, it comes from communication, listening and understanding and having the right musicians together at the right time.

There were moments of completely serenity, when quiet little tunes floated around like a wind from the sea, gently caressing your soul, lulling you into a sense of calm before there came the knock-out blow — delivered by a blast from the bass clarinet, a grinding thump from the bass or a growl from the voice of Alan Wilkinson. Little light tunes were set up occasionally and bounced around the room, but just when you settled in for a quiet interlude a bass riff would start up or the drum clatter like broken glass to smash the illusion that this music offers anything but serenity. The music builds and builds, going through you like a jolt of electricity at times, shocking you back to the present and reverberating like a train, thundering, rolling across the room like a tsunami and back, leaving not one person unaffected.

This music is powerful and beautiful; it invades souls, lifts and takes the listeners out of themselves completely. Sometimes, combinations happen which offer something incredibly special and the evening has that something else — that ‘je ne sais quoi’ which makes an evening particularly memorable. This was such an evening. I wanted to share it with the world but they, sadly, could not be there, so you’ll have to get just an enticing taste from reading about it. Wonderful music delivered by some of the best players around, it was absolutely bloody lovely.

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