Match & Fuse Artists Light Up London
Not far from the site of this year’s Olympics, the first Match & Fuse festival attracted a respectable turnout June 15–16 at London’s Vortex jazz club and Gillett Square.
The opening evening featured club performances and jam sessions that continued until the early hours, both of which were not-to-be-missed opportunities to hear more than a dozen progressive jazz bands from the burgeoning European scene.
Match & Fuse kicked off with the bohemian refrains of Toulouse, France-based outfit Alfie Ryner. Dressed like funeral undertakers with sleazy snarling menace, frontman Paco Serrano provided both spoken-word poetry and saxophone attack, setting the artsy tone of the whole gathering. The same overarching aesthetic resonated when the members were joined by Irish post-M-BASE outfit Redivider. The Serge Gainsbourg-like Serrano captained the set, delivering bursts of conduction-like “sound painting.”
The Vortex was packed for an appearance by Led Bib, the London-based band led by American drummer Mark Holub. Before taking to the kit to unleash slabs of new material to a standing-room-only club, Holub said the freer end of the scene was tough out there. “Support is dying and opportunities are drying up,” he explained.
Nonetheless, Led Bib’s set laid waste to any pervasive doom and gloom with the sprawling, anthemic swell and two-alto-sax attack of Chris Williams and Pete Grogan, whose energizing, jabbing lines were contoured by Liran Donin’s painstaking bass guitar.
The edgy vibe continued with the drum ’n’ bass three-piece Owls Are Not What They Seem. The Warsaw, Poland-based band painted their bare torsos with tribal body art for a pulsating set that thrived on athletic drumming delivered at warp speed and virtuoso bass guitar plus nimble laptop effects.
Though Match & Fuse organizers worried about the monsoon-like conditions that have permeated London for much of June, their fears were allayed when Saturday dawned with clear skies. After the Spanish band Les Rauchen Verboten’s plane was delayed, Irish band Redivider, led by drummer Matt Jacobson, stepped in and impressed with an airy math-jazz clarity on such numbers as “Royal Gardens.” Jacobson, who spoke in the temporary calm of the Vortex’s downstairs bar, later explained that the band had been gigging at festivals in Ireland, but the “lack of venues in Dublin” made gigging in the austerity-hit capital a problem. While Redivider has less in common with the prog-jazz theme that dominated at Match & Fuse, Rome-based guitar band Tribraco embraced the idea. Anchored by the marvellous bass guitar of Valerio Lucenti, the jazz-rockers boasted impressive control at car-chase volumes.
Another bassist who excelled at the fest was Ellen Andrea Wang, who fronted the promising Norwegian band Pixel on the outdoor Gillett Square stage. The group’s chromatic runs on the snarling tune “Call Me” gave Wang an opportunity to pull off one of the most memorable moments of the weekend.
The delay that affected Les Rauchen Verboten was compounded by an unplayable guitar that proved disastrous to the Spaniards halfway through their set. However, WorldService Project and the bizarre Dutch piano band Tin Men and the Telephone made up the slack in some style, leaving it to band-of-the-moment trioVD to hype the late-night crowd.