Loopfest 2009 - Telegraph review

Miles Davis shines among a loose co-operative of young jazz performers at the Loop Collective festival hosted by Vortex.
By Ivan Hewett 11:12AM GMT 17 Feb 2009Comment
While the music industry implodes, jazz just keeps going its own sweet way, relying on self-help and enthusiasm and its own bush telegraph to make things happen. On the evidence of this four-day festival from the Loop Collective, a loose co-operative of young cutting-edge bands, the method is perfect for these straitened times. The place was jam-packed, with several foreign guests among the musicians and a huddle of visiting European journalists on one table.
Does the Collective share an aesthetic as well a web-site and a record label? At first the answer seemed to be no. The variety among the six bands I heard was astonishing, from the electronics-and-drums fuelled frenzy of ’Dog Soup’ to the deliberate bareness of ’Outhouse’ with its unusual line-up of two saxes, bass and drums. Standards were notable by their absence, apart from Miles Davis’s Recollections, which was interestingly re-interpreted by Dog Soup, its plaintive melody pushing against the bass drone below.
However, that drone did point to an interesting folk-like thread running through the weekend. The Swedish/Danish group Phronesis had a fondness for lop-sided irregular rhythms, and the first number in Blink’s set had a Balkan metre which flew along at the same hectic pace as Dave Brubeck’s ’Blue Rondo a la Turk’. But whereas Brubeck strikes a cheerful tone, this quartet made the rhythm seem dark and strange, thanks largely to Alcyona Mick’s dense, knotted piano playing which was bluesy and minimalist at once.
Something else the bands had in common was a fondness for extremes. In Outhouse’s set, one number began in a parsimonious way with just a single melodic line poised over a slow bass, shared by the two sax players who ’blurred’ it with little flourishes (another folk-like trait - the whiff of Eastern Europe was strong that evening!). But within minutes this thin beginning had transformed itself into a fine frenzy. This constant shuttling between bareness and fullness threw the spotlight on the drummers, who had to lead the transition; one who stood out for subtlety in this regard was Phronesis’s Anton Eger.
In all it was a feast of wonderful music-making. But if I had to fix on one band that captured the weekend’s spirit, it would be the duo of Alex Bonney and Dave Kane. Never did I think such fascinating complication and sly humour and sheer joie de vivre could be conjured from a double bass and a pocket trumpet.