Blue Planet Orchestra
Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse
Reviewed: 19 November, 2006
Venue: The Spitz, Old Spitalfields Market, London
As the ‘gateway to the East’, Spitalfields has experienced a fair turnaround in its fortunes over the last few years – with the presence of a restaurant and live-music venue such as the Spitz typical of this renaissance. On the last night of this year’s London Jazz Festival, its upper storey provided the lively if somewhat airless environment for this gig by the Perrin Siblings – pianists Roland and Lola – in a two-part programme of contrasts that yet combined into a cohesive and complementary whole.
Opening the bill, Lola Perrin’s set comprised three lengthy solo pieces – the outer two being heard against film projections by Mahesh Mathai. The first of these set the pattern for what was to follow – Mathai’s evocative if detached Cityscape images counterpoised with Perrin’s lively blend of post-minimalist figuration and a harmonic palette whose debt to Debussy and Ravel was deftly underlined towards the close. The second piece, Magma, did without visuals in its calm if moody evocation of someone ‘left behind’ during the summer-holiday season. The third, Frailty, again combined with a film, East End 1, by Phil Maxwell and Huzan Hashim – though this time the nature of the visuals, capturing the pathos of its subjects with a gritty but revealing immediacy, drew from Perrin a greater poignancy and expressive nuance. The combining of music and images in such a way has been done to death this last decade, but the present partnership evinced a thoughtful approach too often lacking in the medium.
A brief interval, and Roland Perrin took the stage with his Blue Planet Orchestra – a five-piece jazz combo whose addition of trombone and clarinet, as well as the distinctive timbre of a Hawaiian-style guitar, appreciably opened-out the sax, piano, (upright electric) bass and percussion line-up of the ensemble. Beginning with the breezy Zippy, they proceeded through an insinuating number and the engaging Hello and Goodbye (not audibly a Beatles’ homage) before two numbers in what Perrin explained was an ongoing ‘What If’ series: the self-explanatory – and highly danceable – What if Scott Joplin had been Cuban, followed by ‘What if Beethoven had been Spanish’, in which Für Elise was given an ingenious new refit. Yellow Train brought the smokily sensuous vocal of Vee to the fore, while A Child’s View offered a tellingly understated take on the issue of armed conflict. The suitably ebbing and flowing interplay of The River was the most notable feature of an inventive trio for piano, bass and percussion, before The War Zone brought the set to a close with its incisive workout for all six members – while exuding an ominous quality apposite to the title and to the music-making as a whole.
A diverse and appealing gig, then, which was clearly enjoyed by the large and enthusiastic audience which stood, sat, kneeled and lay-down to hear it. Individually and together, the Perrin Siblings are clearly musicians to reckon with, and just the sort of act that the London Jazz Festival should be promoting.