Matthew Herbert Big Band

By Serena Kutchinsky

Electric storms hit the South Bank from all sides during Gilles Peterson’s blindingly eclectic night of ‘future jazz’ at the Royal Festival Hall. Outside, a brave new light and sound installation shrouded the river banks in an eerie mist. Inside, Gilles Peterson was gifted with the perfect precursor to a night which injected some electronic brilliance into the London Jazz Festival.

Peterson makes a much better host than he does DJ, masterfully weaving together an evening of contrasting and complimentary artists, producers and genres. The usual formality of the Festival Hall was banished, the foyer and auditorium thronged with crowds of bright young Londoners dedicated to the pursuit of aural pleasure.

First up was the darkly soulful sound of Two Banks Of Four, a Brit jazz outfit from the esoteric brains of Demus and Robert Gallagher, laptop fiddlers of the highest order whose website promotes everything from their latest album to a line of commemorative tea towels. Their impressive live set-up draws on traditional classical elements, twisting and blending in an experimental crucible until a new sound emerges. Think a blissful mix of spiritual soul-jazz with a humorous hip-hop edge and you’re not far off.

Matthew Herbert is electronic music’s greatest chameleon, beating down musical boundaries with his unmistakable wiry energy and stringent musical dogme that includes clauses banning the use of drum machines and premade samples.

As the big band filed out section by gleaming section, Herbert trotted onto stage, resplendent in black tie, tails and bright white cowboy hat and boots. Jittering around the stage like a chicken on speed, he bleed his electronic energy into the big band sound, making his experimental music swing with syncopated basslines, fat Ellington horn sounds and soulful vocals.

In true big band style, Herbert turns every performance into a full on extravaganza complete with an hilarious deconstruction of every Tory’s favourite feelgood read the Daily Mail. As Dani Siciliano purrs her way through Simple Mind, the musicians roll up their sleeves and rhythmically shred the ‘paper as Herbert loops the sampled sound to drive the track. Proud politico is just one of the mad maestro’s many guises that filter through into his musical adventures as he distorts, adds effects and samples the band as they play.

Herbert and his big band are banging a revolutionary drum in the coolest possible way, rebelling against the continual downsizing of the electronica scene, where technical talent is sneered at and preset samples are de rigueur. The principles of his doctrine are clear: “In a music industry that relies heavily on recycling, it feels like a futuristic step. Sampling culture has fostered a sense that everyone has a right to everything.”
Contributors retain the copyright to their own contributions. Everything else is copyright © Spannered 2015.
Please do not copy whole articles: instead, copy a bit and link to the rest. Thanks!