Review: Nick Malcolm Quartet and Mwamba / Kane / Blackmore @ Manchester Jazz Festival in Albert Square

By Andrew Cream

Since its inception in 1996, Manchester Jazz Festival has grown into an impressive beast, with this year’s spanning seven venues over nine days. The largely free festival does a great job of showcasing not only local talent, but acts from all over the world.

Monday night saw two experimental jazz ensembles take to the stage at the Festival Pavilion in Albert Square.

While you certainly can’t fault the fact this was a free event, the atmosphere was somewhat dampened by the vast size of the pavilion – these acts would have better suited a small, intimate setting.

First up was the Nick Malcolm Quartet, which consisted of Malcolm on trumpet, backed up by piano, double bass and drums.

Their set mainly compromised of improvisational pieces with extended trumpet and piano solos, with each musician feeding well off each other.

However, as with their distinct brand of jazz, the compositions were often quite hard to follow. The discordant nature of the pieces meant listening was no relaxing experience, but it was clear the quartet was incredibly proficient at what they did, and the audience reacted accordingly.

After a brief break, the improvisation continued thanks to a trio consisting of Corey Mwamba on vibraphone, Dave Kane on double bass, and Joshua Blackmore on drums.

Their take on the genre was possibly even more experimental than the previous act, but was also easier on the ears.

The trio merged effortlessly from sparse and minimalist to chaotic but organised, making sure the audience never knew what direction they would go in next.

While it is not unheard of within jazz, it was refreshing to hear the vibraphone being used in the compositions, and it added an African feel to their set.

For those keen on improvisation in jazz, these two acts are a must-hear, but if your interest doesn’t go much past fleeting, there may be better suited acts about for you.

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