Live from the Barbican: SEED Ensemble and guests
It might not feel like there’s much to celebrate these days, apart from a new item on the takeaway menu, but the EFG London Jazz Festival has other plans. Last month marked the 80th birthday of saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders, who helped propel jazz into the stratosphere, alongside visionaries like John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra. To celebrate the man, his message and his music, the Live from the Barbican series welcomes British nonet SEED Ensemble for an hour of searching, reaching and sometimes screeching expressions of the social and spiritual.
The young, diverse band bring a warm and full sound to Sanders’s inspired music, from the cosmic Astral Travelling to the uplifting Love Is Everywhere, beautifully arranged by Cassie Kinoshi for unusual instrumentation that Sanders would surely have approved of. The use of tuba (Hanna Mbuya), guitar (Shirley Tetteh) and flute (Chelsea Carmichael) conveys the depth of Sanders’s sound, with guest spots for clarinet (Shabaka Hutchings), percussion (Yahael Camara-Onono) and vocals (Richie Seivwright) capturing the earthy and levitating qualities of his compositions. Led by Ashley Henry’s piano, Sanders’s Greeting to Saud (Brother McCoy Tyner) takes on special resonance in light of Tyner’s death earlier this year.
Featuring further stellar performances on trumpet (Sheila Maurice-Grey and Jack Banjo Courtney), trombone (Joe Bristow), bass (Rio Kai) and drums (Patrick Boyle), the music would sound as at home in a subterranean jazz club as atop a mountain: music that explores the heavens while rooted to the streets. The concert is followed by a Q&A with Kinoshi, Tetteh and Kai, who discuss the spirit of unity and community in Sanders’s work, his innovations on the saxophone (“exploring the breadth of the instrument”) and an approach to playing without boundaries or ego. In sowing his musical, political and philosophical ideas, SEED Ensemble provide a transcendent way to leave one’s body without leaving home.
Photos: Mark Allan/Barbican
For further information about SEED Ensemble and future events visit their website here.