Reviewed: The Portico Quartet

8 Dec

The Portico Quartet played at Rescue Rooms on Wednesday 25 November 2009

Reviewed for

I unfortunately arrived just as the silver-tongued, honey-voiced songstress Nina Smith was finishing up her set, which is a real shame as after seeing her fantastic performances at both LeftLion’s Circus Extravaganza and the Hockley Hustle I was raring for more.

But I was lucky enough to see experimental jazz foursome The Portico Quartet on what was the last night of their UK tour, riding on the wave of their recent second album ‘Isla’. An intriguing and hypnotising lineup of double bass, drums, saxophone and a steel drum-type instrument called a hang, along with various electronic additions combined to provide the Rescue Rooms with some of the most encapsulating music to have drifted into my ears for some time. Delicate, intricate noises flitted across the stage whilst raucous saxophone shone through, delicious depths were reached by the hang and smoke drifted through the audience.

The Portico Quartet

Milo Fitzpatrick on double bass was extraordinary, producing unusual sounds that were difficult to believe emanated from an organic source as well as more traditional but no less beautiful backing. One of the most heartbreaking sounds on earth, to my ears at least, is a bowed double bass, which he delivered in haunting tones whilst it mixed with the lilting, undulating saxophone. The saxophone was manned by Jack Wyllie, who’s playing and improv was strikingly inventive and journeyed through ethereal and eerie to cutting prominence. Moving through complex time signatures and keeping steady yet interesting rhythms was Duncan Bellamy, who also strayed onto the glockenspiel to give the music a twinkling aura.

But by far the most unique element of TPQ, comes in the form of the hang – a tuned percussion instrument similar to a steel drum – played by Nick Mulvey. This gave the music a truly one-of-a-kind sound, the likes of which I doubt anyone in the audience will have heard before or since.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of TPQ is that whilst they are an instrumental, experimental outfit, unlike so much modern jazz their music is inherently accessible to any music-lover and had the entire audience enthralled throughout their set; never before have I seen the crowd at Rescue Rooms looking so serene and captured for such a long show. With gorgeous moments of dissonance and hints of chaos peeking through a serene jazzy haze, The Portico Quartet are a group that are shattering the moulds and preconceptions of modern jazz and creating beautiful sonic sculptures with the remains.


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