Gig Review:
Roland Perrin Ensemble Plays The Jewish Connection
at the 606 Club, Chelsea, London SW10, Friday, 14th October 2011
Roland Perrin Ensemble Plays The Jewish Connection


606 Jazz Club
90 Lots Road, Chelsea, London SW10 0QD
Friday, 14th October 2011, 8.30pm


Feat.

Roland Perrin Ensemble :

Roland Perrin - piano
Rey Crespo - electric bass guitar
Ernesto Simpson - drums
Roberto Manzin - tenor & alto sax, clarinet
Jeremy Shoham - saxes, Eb clarinet
V - vocals
Dexter Moseley - vocals


Date of Review: 2011/10/16



 
Roland Perrin Ensemble Plays The Jewish Connection
at the 606 Club, Chelsea, London SW10, Friday, 14th October 2011

Having always considered the 606 Club in Chelsea a little awkward to reach, I am glad to say I have finally been disabused of this illusion. The 606 is neither far from the centre of London, nor is it awkward to reach. In fact, it proved very simple to find. And what a delight it, and the gig of a couple of nights ago, proved. The 606 Club has oodles of atmosphere, and a kind of 'lived in' cosiness pervades it somehow. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful. The sound and acoustics are great.

Of course, that is not to say that there aren't one or two drawbacks. But these are relatively minor and either easily overlooked or adjusted to. The baby grand, a Yamaha, has a slightly dark tone (which seems to be common to the make), but the hands of a maestro soon make you forget that. Things are a little bit crowded perhaps, but again, one overlooks this quite quickly, even in the bar area. The one thing that proves perhaps slightly more serious is that it can be hard to impossible to see the band from the bar area - but hey, so book a proper table. (Being tall helps here.) But overall, the friendly, almost homely, atmosphere makes up for everything, easily.

The gig I had come for last Friday night was the Roland Perrin Ensemble Plays The Jewish Connection. Now pianist and composer Roland Perrin is a true musical polymath and has always had his feet in a multitude of musical areas. Essentially an outstanding jazz pianist with wide world music experience, and jazz as well as classical composer, Latin jazz is what he is perhaps best known for, especially of Afro-Cuban flavour, and Afro jazz. But a mix of styles has always been at the heart of Perrin's work, and his bands have reflected this as well. The line-up for Friday night's performance was no exception, comprising musicians from the US (Perrin is a born New Yorker living in Britain - and thank goodness!), Cuba, Ghana, Britain, and Europe.
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Outstanding bassist Rey Crespo and drummer Ernesto Simpson also lead their own Cuban ensembles and, where appropriate, laid down blistering Latin/Afro-Cuban grooves for the likes of which you would normally have to travel to Cuba or New York.

Vocalist V - just plain 'V' - proved a sensation, too, and originally hails from Ghana. This young singer impressed with a large range, superb control, great sensitivity, and stage presence to match. And looks and charm that command total surrender from miles away. The title of Perrin's Temptation sums V up to perfection. No true red-blooded male would not completely weaken at the knees at her sound and sight.

Saxophonist and clarinetist Roberto Manzin originally hails from Italy, and is one of the most versatile musicians on the British scene and hence a perfect fit in the Roland Perrin Ensemble, as indeed anywhere. This fine saxophonist and clarinettist has an almost uncanny knack for finding his way into any kind of music. (Also see a previous review.)

Special guests Jeremy Shoham on saxes and Eb clarinet and vocalist Dexter Moseley rounded off this line-up with impressive panache.

Calling Roland Perrin a musical polymath, as I did earlier, was even more appropriate than might have seemed. For Friday night's performance ventured into yet another type of music, Jewish music within a jazz framework. The Roland Perrin Ensemble Plays The Jewish Connection, as a prelude to a forthcoming album, was an exploration of Jewish music, principally klezmer and Yiddish song, in a Jazz context. Perrin refers to it as 'Jewish Jazz,' however I must admit to being somewhat uncomfortable with that term. (See also this previous article if the subject is of particular interest.)

The reasons for this discomfort are simple. There simply is no such genre as 'Jewish Jazz' - not even a 'Jewish tinge' in the way that the Latin tinge eventually became the fully-fledged genre we now know as Latin jazz. Yes, there have been a number of flirtations with various kinds of Jewish music (there are many) within a jazz context, notably by Herbie Mann, Mark Weinstein, Avishai Cohen, (early) Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, Stewart Curtis' K-Groove, and a few others. However, until now there has been no penetration of this into the mainstream to any noticeable extent. Once it does to some notable degree, we might be able to speak of a Jewish tinge in jazz. Until then, these remain isolated experiments, if laudable and notable, and generally enjoyable, nonetheless.

But back to the gig itself! The Roland Perrin Ensemble played two riveting, hugely enjoyable sets of close on one-and-a-half hours each. This may sound like rather a long time, but if you had been there it would have seemed an awful lot shorter. Time flies when you're having fun you know. And these two sets were huge bundles of fun that made you completely forget time. However, the break between sets was more than welcome in order to avoid 'enjoyment fatigue.'

The first set included much of the Jewish material, both original and traditional. Some more also followed in the second set. Particularly outstanding amongst the Jewish material were Perrin's Temptation, and that irresistible old turkey given new life, Bei Mir Bistu Sheyn, set to an irresistible, almost blistering Latin groove. The effect of the latter has to be heard to be believed, it cannot be imagined except by Roland Perrin in arranging this piece. It was totally jaw-dropping. Particularly so to anyone familiar with it in at least one old version. (If the Barry Sisters ring any bells, you're on the right track.)

 

Sadly, the noise generated by people in the bar area, especially during the first set, who considered chat more important than the music was such that it was impossible to hear any of Perrin's banter or titles being played.

However, this detracted little from the quality of the music. The ensemble work was outstanding, and the extensive soloing no less so, with some blistering solos especially by Perrin himself, Manzin, Crespo, as well as Shoham and Simpson. And the vocals of particularly V were just unforgettable. Her performance will forever remain etched into the memory of anyone who experienced it. A truly exceptional singer and performer.

All the Perrin originals impressed with their authenticity, while the traditional material was allowed to remain true to itself in spite of the often Latin grooves underpinning it and the modern jazz idiom into which much of it had been brought. Moseley's vocals excelled in the more traditional pieces.

The Roland Perrin Ensemble Plays The Jewish Connection was a most outstanding and hugely enjoyable as well as memorable performance that will linger in the mind for a long time to come. Personally, I could have stayed till breakfast and beyond! And I certainly cannot wait for the album. Roland Perrin and his Ensemble are a great asset to the scene here and a rather special experience.


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