Despite brewing a bitch of a cold I struggle manfully into the cosy confines of Stereo to join in the launch of jazz ensemble Fat-Suit‘s new album Jugaad (confusingly actually put out two months ago), and a fine event it is.
A mixture older, trad-looking folk and the venue’s typical young hipsters get confronted with a set that veers wildly from the conventional to funk to sleaze to almost Carl Craig-esque Detroit take on the genre to the… well, all over the shop: mostly with a very high hit rate; most definitely all of it a heavier and more solid proposition live than expected.
It’s impressive stuff and despite meandering happily round the various back streets offered up by the jazz-map there’s core; a hefty groove running throughout almost the entire evening; a nucleus around which all the instruments on the display, from 21st century electronics to wood to brass, can spin with abandon.
There’s some enthusiastic hollers from the rowdier elements shaking their moneymakers when the going gets rough; appreciative nods from the aficionados.
The only slightly flatter note is when the fiddles and other strings – among the ten plus members – steer things a little too excessively folky, and dare one say Scottish, direction.
Perhaps that illustrates the slight perils of working as a large collective, though of course that set up has myriad bonuses as well.
When drifting off-script and allowing each of the musicians to take individual and more forward roles the vibrancy and freedom is palpable.
That’s not to say the strings aren’t great, they are, just that when the Scottishness comes to the fore the glee and groove retreat a little, and though employed skilfully for the most part the songs that stray a little too far into raggle taggle territory are less successful: ‘No Regrets’ being an example; though it is a fine and delicate tune on record it interrupts the flow of the gig a touch.
Tracks like ‘Hypnic Jerk’ are more fruitful; the alchemy of pulling that many disparate elements together into a coherent whole is faintly remarkable; the eye-contact between members and nods and winks allowing a silent marshalling of what could turn into atonal musical anarchy at any given moment – a jazz-apocalypse surely none of us could survive unscathed.
On this showing, even if not seduced by the Suits previously, they’re certainly well worth examining in person; creative and with a weighty swing… can dance to that all right.
Words: Andrew Morrison