F-IRE Collective


F-IRE Collective:
Finn Peters (flute/saxophones)
Barak Schmool (saxophones/percussion)
Ingrid Laubrock (saxophones)
Pete Wareham (saxophones)
Tom Arthurs (trumpet)
Joe Bentley (trombone)
Ben Davis (cello)
David Okumu (guitar)
Nick Ramm (keyboards)
Tom Herbert (basses)
Seb Rochford (drum-kit)
Leo Taylor (drum-kit)
Maurizio Ravalico (percussion)
Julia Biel (vocals)

With guests:
Tom Allan (trumpet)
Oren Marshall (tuba)
Jonathan Bratoëff (guitar)
Jonny Philips (guitar)
Robert Mitchell (piano)

Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: 24 October, 2005
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

With the award-winning F-IRE Collective now firmly established on the London jazz scene, the ever-astute Tony Dudley-Evans signed them up for a national tour under the auspices of the Contemporary Music Network. This was the last date, and had the feel of a triumphant homecoming.

The format of the concert emphasises the collaborative nature of the F-IRE project. Rather than simply sending the best-known bands to come out of the Collective, which include Acoustic Ladyland and Mercury Prize nominees Polar Bear, a special big-band line-up was devised. Most of the musicians are bandleaders and composers in their own right, and nearly all of them contributed a tune to this programme, whether newly-minted originals like Nick Ramm’s “From Melody to Memory” or pieces like Seb Rochford’s “Beartown” that are already starting to feel like standards. It’s an admirably democratic arrangement, the result of years of collaborative learning and dues paid in the Collective’s community workshops.

There is no ‘house style’ as such, although the big-band numbers bear the free-blowing influence of Loose Tubes (Django Bates contributed the programme foreword, like a presiding deity giving his blessing). Instead, the music reflects the varied musical characters involved, an impressive range from Tom Arthurs’s wispy, chamber-jazz flugelhorn outing “Potentials of Shambles” to the raw, raucous blast of Pete Wareham’s “Remember”, to which the composer adds a sclerotic, honking tenor solo. Julia Biel’s soulful vocals enriched several numbers, not least “Song for the Sleeping”, in which she was accompanied by Jonny Philips’s thoughtful acoustic guitar. The instrumental mix was given variety by Finn Peters’s flute and Ben Davis’s cello, and Oren Marshall’s tuba added a Dirty Dozen Brass Band flavour; while guitarist David Okumu sounded, as ever, like he’s beaming back signals from another planet.

If there was a fault with the show, it’s that the roof-raising group-jams go on a little too long; you appreciate the musicianship, but can’t help thinking it’s more fun to play than to listen to. Collective individuality is a tricky line to pull off, and guest pianist Robert Mitchell came close to stealing the show with an incandescent solo on his own “A Heart Full of You”. But I leave (after an unexpected a cappella encore) certain that this musical movement is gathering force.

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